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Most airlines with sufficient notice can serve passengers with any of the following standard special meals. The four letter codes are set by IATA.

Ovo-lacto vegetarian Indian style (AVML) :
For Hindu vegetarians who do not eat eggs, fat, gelatin, milk, dairy products, seafood or root vegetables. Indian cuisine.

Strict Western vegetarian (VGML):
Also known as a vegan meal, it excludes meat, seafood, lard, gelatin, eggs, milk, dairy products and honey.

Western vegetarian (VLML) :
As per VGML, except that dairy products are permissible, including cheese if made with non-animal rennet.

Infant (BBML) :
For infants upto two years old. Excludes seeds, hard fruit/vegetables and confectionary.

Child (CHML) :
For children aged two to twelve years. Excludes foods which are hard to digest, such as nuts, seeds or anything rich, hard or well seasoned.

Hindu non-vegetarian (HNML) :
Indian cuisine, which excludes gelatin, lard, beef, veal, pork or the products of these items.

Kosher (KSML) :
Prepared according to Jewish dietary laws.

Muslim (MSML) :
Prepared according to Halal dietary laws. Excludes scaleless fish, pork, alcohol or the products of these items.

Bland (BLML) :
Also known as a Restricted Fibre meal or an Ulcer diet meal. Avoids fried and fatty foods, raw and dried fruits/nuts, raw vegetables, highly seasoned meat, alcohol, pickles and excess sugar.

Diabetic (DBML) :
Also known as a sugar-free diet meal, Hypoglycemic meal or a restricted carbohydrate meal. Excludes sugar, honey, jam, cakes, fatty and fried foods, fatty meats, chocolate, sweetened desserts, sweetened fruit products, confectionary and ice cream. Instead uses complex carbohydrates and fibre.

Gluten-free (GFML) :
Also known as a Gliadin-free meal, Coeliac meal or wheat-free meal. Avoids any products containing rye, wheat, oats, barley, malt or foods containing their derivatives.

High fibre (HFML) :
Also known as a high residue meal or high roughage diet meal. Avoids meat, egg whites and fats, and instead uses high fibre products such as pulses, lentils, pasta and cereal grains, root vegetables and fruit.

Low calorie (LCML) :
Also known as a modified fat meal, low saturated fat meal, weight control meal or low joule meal. A passenger flying with a low calorie meal designation will not be fed more than 1,200 calories per 24 hours. Avoids high cholesterol foods like eggs, liver, kidney, heart, shrimp, comedo, oils, sugar, rich dairy products, processed meats and high levels of saturated fat.

Low protein (LPML) :
Avoids meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and highly salted foods.

Low sodium, no salt added (LSML) :
Excludes foods with added sodium such as smoked or salted meat or fish, crackers, biscuits and cheese.

Non-lactose (NLML) :
For lactose intolerant passengers, it excludes milk and diary products.

Low purine (PRML) :
Avoids purine, as found in liver, kidneys, brains and yeast.

Oriental ( ORML) :
Chinese cuisine, cooked without meat, fish, milk, dairy products or root vegetables.

Fruit platter (FPML) :
Simply fresh fruit, as eaten by certain religious communities during periods of fasting.

Raw vegetarian (RVML) :
Excludes meat, eggs, seafood, milk and dairy products, lard and gelatin, and is entirely fresh fruit, vegetables and salad.

Seafood (SFML) :
Meant to reflect a personal preference to seafood, rather than dietry or ethno-religious requirements. Depending on the airline, shellfish, caviar and other aquatic foods may or may not be included.

More complicated meals can be ordered through online reservation systems like Galileo using free-text fields. Many airlines will also cook requests for First class passengers, within reason (nobody wants to consider the effects air pressure differentials could have on a pot belly suckling pig).

Some airlines run an entire "special meal" service ie their meals would be considered "special" by any other airline.

For example, on El Al Israel airlines, all their food is strictly Kosher. However, you can still order vegetarian for example. But you'll get Kosher vegetarian. And of course, you can order "special" Kosher if you're not happy with the certification of the Rabbi who supervises their "regular" Kosher meals. Don't ask.

Interestingly, a number of charter airlines flying to Israel serve Kosher meals to everybody, although British Airways doesn't.

La petite mort says All of Emirates in flight meals are Halal.. I suspect this applies to other airlines based in Arab countries and no doubt some of them (albeit not Emirates) are dry too.

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