By Paul Sheehan, Sydney Morning Herald
Cadbury will sell a mountain of chocolates this Easter, as it does every Easter. It has been careful to make sure that its products are certified as halal, even though it is not necessary. Hundreds of companies in Australia do the same. Halal certification has become a big business.
The essence of halal is that any food is forbidden to Muslims if it includes blood, pork, alcohol, the flesh of carnivores or carrion, or comes from an animal which has not been slaughtered in the correct manner, which includes having its throat slit. Food labelled as halal invariably involves the payment of a fee. It does not extend to chocolate but Cadbury lists 71 products which are halal, ranging from Dairy Milk to Freddo frogs to Red Tulip chocolates. The website also states: ”We do not have any kosher-certified products.”
”Cadbury also pay for halal certification on the Easter product range, even though Easter is a Christian celebration and nothing to do with Islam,” says Kirralie Smith, who runs a website called Halal Choices. The website lists 340 companies in Australia that pay for halal certification, including Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, Franklins, Kellogg’s, MasterFoods, Nestle and even Kraft’s Vegemite.
Halal Choices has received more than 250,000 visits since Smith, a Christian activist, created the website two years ago to draw attention to the incremental extension of sharia into Australian culture.
”[Cadbury has] a standard letter to people who complain about their halal certification which says they have been assured the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils [which issues halal certifications] are not involved in any illegal activity,” Smith said. ”They might want to explain the $9 million in fraud involving the Malek Fahd school.”
(Last year the Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney was ordered to repay $9 million in state funding which the state and federal governments said had been illegally transferred to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. A federal government audit also questioned numerous payments made to AFIC by Islamic colleges in Canberra, Brisbane and Adelaide.)
Halal certification has long been an accepted practice similar to the labelling of food as kosher for Jewish consumers. The website of the Islamic Co-Ordination Council of Victoria states: ”With five office staff, two external food technologists, four sharia advisers and over 140 registered halal slaughtermen/inspectors, ICCV is the largest and the most respected halal certifier in Australia … We have no shortage of manpower. We are ready to serve any company in Australia that is interested in producing halal product (meat and processed food).”
At the World Halal Forum held in Malaysia last April, Australia had 13 delegates. Nestle was a major sponsor, Fonterra another. The forum’s website stated: ”Two milestones [at the conference] were the first major steps towards the convergence of halal and Islamic Finance, and recognition of the importance of halal accreditation schemes, especially in the non-Muslim world.”
What troubled Smith was the extensive payments for halal certification for hundreds of products that did not require any halal process. She then discovered examples of overt pressure.
”A wholesale chicken supplier in Perth lost $120,000 a year over three years because he wasn’t halal certified,” she said. ”The chickens he sold had been ritually slaughtered and were halal, but because he would not pay for certification he found all his outlets were forced to boycott him. He was outraged and held out for three years but had to give in to save his business. … Isn’t that illegal?”
Halal mainly involves meat. Much of the non-meat food supply is intrinsically halal, and thus does not require certification, including milk, honey, fish, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and grains. Yet many producers and suppliers of such products pay for halal certification.
”I emailed Capilano Honey after I discovered they were paying for halal certification,” Smith said. ”This was their response: ‘While we appreciate that honey is considered halal under Islamic law, it is our customer’s requirement to provide halal certification in order for us to conduct business with them.’ This sounds like extortion to me. And why does nearly every fresh loaf of bread you buy in a supermarket or fast food chain have a paid halal certification? I have a list of 23 pages of halal certificates for breads.
”Parmalat have a huge list of halal-certified products, most of them being the white milk you buy in supermarkets. White milk does not need to be certified. They don’t mark their labels and now they have removed the certificates from their website because of negative feedback.
”Purina Fancy Feast cat food is now on the list of halal-certified foods. Are cats becoming Muslim? Or is a lot of this just a money-making scheme?”