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Halal market grows, with potential for non-Muslims too

| 29/04/2008 | Reply

Halal market grows, with potential for non-Muslims too

By Clarisse Douaud


4/28/2008-

The
market for Halal foods is growing according to experts, as US Muslims
grow accustomed to seeing Halal in their grocery aisles, and
non-Muslims see it as healthier.

As
such, for food processors, going through the Halal certification
process opens up the possibility of additional clientele – even if they
do not have to make changes to their product to get such certification.

Enter
groups like the Islamic Food & Nutrition Council of America
(IFNCA), which started up in 1980 in Illinois, and now has 24 people in
charge of inspections – 10 to 12 in the US and seven in Europe.

Though
it is a certifier, IFNCA is a not-for-profit organization and channels
the fees from certification back into educating industry and the
community.

“The suppliers need to understand the requirements also, and our inspectors actually educate the industry too,” Dr. Munir Chaudry, president and halal administrator with IFNCA, told FoodNavigator-USA.

Halal means to be sanctioned by Islamic law, the opposite being ‘haram’, which means it is unlawful according to Islam

A
third category, mashbooh, is not so clear as it means a product is
doubtful or questionable – in which case it has to be examined
according to Islamic law.

Haram products include the following:
pork and pork by-products, animals improperly slaughtered or killed in
the name of anyone other than Allah (God), alcohol, blood and blood
by-products. This means that any food that has come into contact with,
or contains traces of, these foods are not halal.

Some
questionable mashbooh foods are those containing gelatin, enzymes, or
emulsifiers, because the origin of these ingredients is not always
known.

With eight million Muslims in the US, and the average
family in the country spending around $2100 on food yearly, Chaudry
estimates the US Halal market to be worth $16bn.

Muslim
immigrants and their second generation children both look for halal.
According to Chaudry, there are a variety of means in which people buy
halal foods in the US.

There are those who buy from a local
and trusted source, such as from a Muslim store owner. But this option
is limited because it can be difficult for a store owner to supply a
variety of goods or keep a close watch on the production of these
items, he said.

There are also those who only eat based on the
principle that if there is not pork or alcohol in a product, that is
enough for them, or if someone tells them a food is halal, they trust
that.

The other method is certification, which allows a
manufacturer to then put a symbol on their packaging letting consumers
know their product has passed the test.

This symbol attracts not only Muslim consumers, but other too who see it as value-added.

“There is a perception that there are less chemicals in halal products,” said Chaudry. “Incidental users have a good perception of them because the products have less complicated ingredients and taste good.”

Finally, with recent crises surrounding food contamination, Halal certification cannot hurt a product’s overall image.

“A huge part of our food program is sanitation and safety,” said Chaudry.

Category: The Americas

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