HALAL EXPERTISE

Your Partner in Halal Certification

ISSUES ON THE HALAL FOOD: INGREDIENTS AND PRODUCTION

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For a food to be halal for consumption there is need to ensure that the food is halal all through the food supply chain and this is not an easy process. Starting from the raw materials, meat and meat related ingredients have always received the biggest attention. Contrary to general believe halal is not just pork free. It also includes the by-product of pork. Other animals that are not halal include carnivorous animals, birds of prey and land animals without external ears. Halal animals and poultry if inappropriately slaughtered or dead before slaughtered, or killed in name anyone other than Allah will be deemed haram which in other word is non halal.

There are many cases that have been brought to the public attention regarding fraud on meat products. There are many reported incidences that meat that is labelled, certified or sold as halal may not be so. It has been related by van Waarden and van Dalen in 2010 of a TV documentary shot in the Netherlands that out of a sample of 10 Turkish sandwiches that are sold as 100% lamb, only 1 turned out to be what it was pretended to be and alarmingly one was actually made of 100% pork. The Muslim Council of Britain issued a statement warning the Muslim community about chicken supplied by Holland which contains pork as screened by BBC program ‘The Food Police’. From a study conducted by the Local Council Regulatory Services (Lacors) in England, sampling 495 kebabs by 76 councils, it was revealed that six kebabs include pork when it has not been declared as an ingredient and shockingly two of them were actually described as halal.

Contamination with pork maybe due to human greed as in many countries pork is always much cheaper. Consumers in Muslims countries are not so safe in assuming that no contamination happens during food preparation. It was reported by the Chief of JAKIM that the department did not give accreditations to many hotels’ restaurant in Malaysia because it was found that suspect items like alcohol are being used in cooking, chickens were sourced from suspect suppliers and there were mixing of halal and non halal items in stores.

Meat and meat products may be the most highly regulated segment with regard to halal requirements with many halal websites to inform and enlighten the Muslim community at large of the of issues regarding halal meat. It is found that a majority halal meat customers trust the local shops more than the supermarkets as the shops are manned by Muslims as opposed to supermarkets. An animal, whose meats are permissible to be eaten, may become non halal if it is not slaughtered according to the Islamic ritual. It is alarming to note that as much as 90 % of the meat and poultry sold as halal in the Pakistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Scandinavian Countries even in UK, may have been sold illegally and not slaughtered according to the Muslim requirements. It is reported that most animals are being stunned before having their throats slits, just like in the main stream food production which make them non halal.

There are various websites that debate on the issues of stunning. Although, these incidences were reported in non-Muslim countries, the Muslim countries were also not spared of these perturbing issues as many are importing meat from non-Muslim countries such as New Zealand and Brazil. To ensure that imported meats are halal, the authorities in many countries have obligate guidelines to ensure that the meat is not contaminated. For example, in Malaysia, halal markings or certifications for meat are given only when JAKIM are satisfied with the examination that cover all aspects of preparation, slaughtering, processing, handling storage, transportation, cleaning, disinfection and management practices, these types of regulatory requirements should be made mandatory and practice in Pakistan as well.

Other than meat and poultry products, alcohol and intoxicants and also blood and blood by products are also non halal. The relatively vibrant activity in the halal food production has brought about the need to address other food ingredients such fish and sea food, dairy products, cereal and confectionaries and questionable ingredients such as gelatine and enzyme. Rias and Chaudry discuss in more detail the various halal raw materials. Food producers also need to be aware of the sources of these common foods. For example, gelatine can be either halal (if taken from seaweed) or haram (if taken from bones of non-halal animals) and so are cheeses that are made using rennet taken from non-halal cow’s stomach.

Moreover, there are an increasingly large number of ingredients directly added to food which needs to be certified halal. For example, in EAFUS (Everything Added to Food in the United States) list there is listed over 2000 substances as additional ingredients for food. The list of halal and non-halal ingredients for Malaysia can be obtained from malaysiahalalfoods.com, whereas same platform isn’t available for Pakistan till now.

As mentioned earlier, the concept of halal and tayyib prohibit Muslims to take food that harms body or health and those that have impurity and filthy deteriorating its goodness and wholesome. Food cannot be passed as halal if there is any indication that it poses a health risk. Pointing & Teinaz, has reported the increased in food crimes in the many countries involving the sales of rotten meat that is unfit for human consumption which also include passing these meat as halal meat and this conspiracy has been around for period of more than 10 years.

The concept of tayyib in Islam somehow fits with the UK food law and EU General Food Law in terms of the health risk associated to consumption. For example, the UK food Safety Act 1990 has indicated that meat that is filthy, smelly and extremely unwholesome is not fit for consumption. This condition violates not only the Syariah (Islamic) law but the Safe Food law and the meat could not be halal, Other food law, for example, the hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) requirements is also associated to the tayyib concept. Riaz & Chaudry, stressed that HACCP which address food safety issues are still relevant and can be used to identify halal control points. But, it would need to be complemented with the halal compliance.

A food is halal if it is halal all through the whole food production chain. Ensuring that the ingredients used are halal is not adequate. These efforts must continue to ensure that the raw materials go through a process that will make them to remain halal right up to the table. During production, contamination with non halal elements can render a food non halal such that the cutlery and utensils used in preparing halal food must also be free of non-halal ingredients. For instance, in the process, alcohol based cleaners and sanitizers are not permitted nor are labelled adhesives containing gelatine. Again, adhering to MS1500, GMP and HACCP ensures that the food production complies with the halal, health and safety requirements.

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