A LEADING halal consultant has slammed “corrupt, unethical and improper” practices in the multi-million dollar halal food certification industry.
Melbourne-based Abdul Ayan has accused some certifiers of failing to conduct audits properly, if at all, to cut costs and maximise profits.
He said this would result in some certification labels being “deficient, wrong or deceptive”.
“Halal certification has been widely described by leading members of the Muslim community, aptly in my view, as a cash cow whose function is to collect as much money as possible in exchange for little or no provision of services beyond signing and issuing certificates,” Mr Ayan said in a submission to the senate inquiry into third-party certification of food.
Mr Ayan, a principal of Aus-Halal Pty Ltd and author of the 2013 book Accessing The Global Halal Market, called on authorities to eliminate fraudulent practices to safeguard Australia’s access to the huge global halal market, which numbers 1.6 billion consumers. Australia exports $13 billion worth of agrifood products to Islamic countries annually.
“It’s a nightmare and it needs to be cleaned up,” Mr Ayan told The Daily Telegraph.
“For some practitioners it’s all about business; it’s not about religion at all.”
Mr Ayan said he was a strong supporter of halal certification but the provision, audit and supervision of services in Australia was “poor”.
“There are also credible reports that some (certifiers) engage in corrupt, unethical and improper practices,” he said in his senate submission.
“The system allows them to do so and some therefore take full advantage of it.”
Mr Ayan said certifiers seldom examined the operation programs of halal-registered companies, some of which were out of date and not relevant to countries they exported to.
He investigated one boning company where the only halal supervisor was regularly absent from work, yet was paid fully for the work he had not done.
Mr Ayan later discovered the supervisor was the brother of the manager of the certifying organisation responsible for the company.
The Australian Food and Grocery Council backed calls for greater transparency, saying without halal certification there was a “big commercial risk” in export markets.
“There’s no doubt there’s a lack of clarity around what it is, who does it, and why,” said CEO Gary Dawson.
He said that certifiers should reveal details of their own authority, whether they are commercial or not-for-profit and how a company gets and maintains certification.