Halal standards urged

| 26/02/2009 | Reply

Armina Ligaya

Saleh Abdullah Lootah, centre, the CEO of Al Islami foods, says the industry has to evolve. Delores Johnson / The National

DUBAI
// National standards for the production of halal food are needed to
replace outdated GCC regulations, the country’s leading halal food
producer says.

Saleh Abdullah Lootah, the chief executive of the
Dubai-based Al Islami foods, said today the GCC-wide standards that the
UAE adhered to were out of step with changing manufacturing methods.

“Machinery
has changed, so many things have changed in the business,” he said on
the sidelines of the Gulfood exhibition in Dubai, the biggest food and
beverage industry conference in the Middle East. “The regulations have
to evolve as well.”

Mr Lootah said GCC halal regulations had
been in place for more than 30 years, and there should be
Sharia-compliant rules along the manufacturing and supply chain. He
said Al Islami had been submitting input to the Federal Government and
he expected new UAE regulations to be ready in two years.

Changes
to international standards are also expected, with a draft to be
submitted next month at a meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic
Conference in Jeddah. The set of recommended standards will be made
public and open to discussion in May at the World Halal Forum in
Malaysia.

The halal products and services industry – which
caters to the world’s fastest growing religion, with about 1.4 billion
people – has been growing rapidly and expanding beyond food to
cosmetics and finance. By 2025, the industry could represent as much as
20 per cent of world trade in food products, according to the Canadian
government’s Agri-Food Trade Service.

The UAE has emerged as a
major exporter of halal products. The industry is estimated to be worth
between US$30 million (Dh110.1m) and $50m, said Darhim Hashim, the
chief executive of the International Halal Integrity Alliance.

While
many countries had their own set of halal guidelines, the UAE did not,
said Mr Lootah. It followed rules set by the Gulf Standards
Organisation (GSO).

The UAE does not require businesses to
label halal products. Instead, companies are required to submit a
certification from their country that has also been recognised by the
UAE’s diplomatic mission.

Mr Hashim said the GSO rules alone did not provide sufficient guidelines.

“If
you look at the GCC standards, it just deals specifically on meat and
slaughter, and it’s just a small part of the halal supply chain,” he
said. “There’s a lot of multi-sourcing for ingredients and there’s a
whole supply chain right from farm to fork.”

Category: Halal Integrity, Middle East & Africa

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