Fundamentals of Halal Foods and Certification

By Mian
N. Riaz, Ph.D – Prepared Foods January 2010

products for the growing, massive halal market requires knowledge of
processes and ingredient characteristics.

Demand for halal foods is increasing, not only in the U.S., Europe
and Canada, but also in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, North Africa
and Australia. Halal consumer market/trade is the fastest growing in the
world. According to a latest estimation by the Pew Forum on Religion
and Public Life, there are about 1.57 billion Muslims in the world
today, and they comprise 23% of the global population of 6.8 billion.
Over 60% of them live in Asia, and one-fifth in the Middle East and
North Africa. More than 300 million Muslims live as minority
communities. In Europe, there are an estimated 38.1 million Muslims,
while about 1 million live in Canada, comprising 3.1% of the population.
There are varying estimates of the Muslim population in the U.S., but
most surveys place it at around 8 million.

The global halal food
market is currently valued at $635 billion per year, and, according to
the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, the U.S. halal market
is estimated at $17.6 billion. Besides Muslims, other segments have
joined the ranks of halal consumers, as these types of foods gain
worldwide recognition as being safe and hygienic. Non-Muslim consumers
like them, because of their additional safety and sanitation features,
making them less likely to be cross-contaminated. Therefore, there is
tremendous economic opportunity for food manufacturers to meet the needs
of all consumers of halal food products.

Over the past 30 years,
many halal markets, ethnic stores and restaurants have sprung up,
mainly in major metropolitan areas. For the most part, the food industry
has ignored this population group and concentrated its efforts towards
exporting to Muslim nations. In the past, Muslim businessmen slaughtered
their own animals, and the concept of halal certification was foreign
to them. However, in the late 1990s, small to mid-size companies
recognized the vacuum and need to capture this niche. Halal
certification is becoming as popular for domestic products as it has
been for exported products. Foods and beverages bearing halal
certification are readily accepted by Muslim consumers, as well as
customers from other religions, provided it is from a reputable
certification organization.

Fundamentals of Halal Foods

foods pure and clean are permitted for Muslims, except the following
(including any products derived from them or contaminated with them): 1.
carrion or dead animals; 2. blood; 3. swine, including all by-products;
4. alcohol; and 5. animals slaughtered without pronouncing the name of
God on them. If food companies can avoid ingredients from these sources,
halal food production is very similar to regular food production.

processors should be aware of the following common food ingredients and
their sources: food additives; amino acids; animal fat and protein;
colors; dressings, sauces and seasonings; emulsifiers; enzymes; fats and
oils; fat-based coatings, grease and release agents; flavors and
flavorings; gelatin; glycerin; hydrolyzed protein; meat and its
by-products; packaging materials; stabilizers; thickening agents;
vitamins; and whey protein. When processing halal products, it is
necessary to eliminate all contamination with non-halal ingredients.

is a Halal Certificate?

A halal certificate is a document
issued by an Islamic organization, certifying the products it covers
meet the Islamic dietary guidelines, comprising of, but not limited to,
the following: the product does not contain pork or its by-products; the
product does not contain alcohol; the product does not contain
prohibited food ingredients of animal origin; the product has been
prepared and manufactured on clean equipment; and meat and poultry
components are from animals slaughtered according to Islamic law.

of Halal Certificates and Duration

There are two types of
halal certificates, and their duration depends on the type of food or
beverage. The first type of certificate is a site registration
certificate, which signifies that a plant, production facility, food
establishment, slaughterhouse, abattoir or any establishment handling
food has been inspected and approved to produce or serve halal food. It
does not mean that all food products made or handled at such a facility
are halal-certified. A site certificate may not be used as a halal
product certificate.

The second type of halal certificate is for a
specific product or a specific quantity. This certificate signifies the
listed product or products meet the halal guidelines formulated by the
certifying organization. Such a certificate may be issued for a
specified quantity of the product destined for a particular
distributor/importer. If the certificate is for a specific quantity, it
may be called a batch certificate or a shipment certificate. Meat and
poultry products, where each batch or consignment has to be certified,
generally receive a batch or shipment certificate.

The duration
for which a certificate is valid depends upon the type of product. A
batch certificate issued for each consignment is valid for as long as
that specific batch or lot of the product is in the market–generally,
up to product expiration date or “use by” date. In a separate case, if a
certified product is made according to a fixed formula, a certificate
may be issued for a one-, two- or three-year period. The product remains
halal-certified, as long as it meets all the established and
agreed-upon production and marketing requirements between the company
and the halal-certifying organization. 

Who is
Authorized to Issue Halal Certificates?

Any individual
Muslim, Islamic organization or agency can issue a halal certificate,
but the acceptability of the certificate depends upon the country of
import or the Muslim community served through such certification. For
example, in order to issue a halal certificate for the products exported
to Malaysia and Indonesia, the issuing body of the halal certificate
must be listed on each country’s approved list. There are more than 40
organizations which issue halal certificates in the U.S., but only five
of them have been approved by the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI).
Recently, Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) culled down the list
from 16 to just three approved organizations. Some 50% of the ones
previously approved and now delisted by JAKIM were not even active in
issuing halal certificates, according to JAKIM sources. The other
delisted ones failed to meet JAKIM guidelines.

It is important
food manufacturers be aware of not only the halal requirements for
different countries and the principles of halal, but, also, understand
the organizations which meet their needs the best. They should choose a
certifying body that can service their global needs, as well as one that
is acceptable to both the countries of import and the local Muslim

Malaysia and Indonesia are the only countries that
have a formal program to approve halal-certifying organizations. Other
countries, like Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates,
Egypt and Bahrain, may also do approvals of organizations for specific

Which Products Can Be Certified?

the complexity of manufacturing systems and the utilization of all
animal by-products, any product consumed by Muslims may be certified,
whether the product is consumed internally or applied to the body
externally. Medicines and pharmaceutical products which are used for
health reasons need not be certified; however, knowledgeable consumers
look for products that are halal-certified or at least meet halal
guidelines. The products that may be certified include:

* Meat
and poultry fresh, frozen and processed products.

* Meat and poultry

* Dairy products and ingredients.

* Prepared foods
and meals.

* All other packaged food products.

* Cosmetics and
personal care products.

* Pharmaceuticals.

* Nutritional and
dietary supplements.

* Packaging materials.

Certification Process

The halal certification process starts
with choosing an organization that meets the needs for the markets to
be serviced. Many countries, like Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia,
have government-approved halal programs, whereas the predominantly
food-exporting countries have independent certification bodies. When
targeting a specific country, it is better to use an organization that
is approved, recognized or acceptable in that country. If the market
area is broader or even global, then an organization with an
international scope would be better.

The process starts with
filling out an application explaining the production process; the
products to be certified; and regions in which the products will be
sold/marketed, along with specific information about the component
ingredients. Most organizations review the information and set up an
audit of the facility. At this time, it would be advisable to negotiate
the fees and have a clear understanding of the costs involved; in some
cases, the cost may run into thousands of U.S. dollars per year.

review of the ingredient information and/or the facility audit, the
organization may ask manufacturers to replace any ingredients that do
not meet its guidelines. Generally, the company and the halal-certifying
agency sign a multi-year supervision agreement. Then, a halal
certificate may be issued for one year or for a shipment of a product.
Overall, the process for halal certification of the food products is not
complicated. (See chart “Halal Certification Process Flowchart.”)

of Halal Markings 

When a product is certified halal, a
symbol is normally printed on the package to inform consumers. For
example, the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) uses
the crescent (see the January 2010 issue of Prepared Foods for
the symbols and lettering noted here) symbol, which signifies “good for
Muslims.” There are several other symbols being used by
halal-certifying agencies, like an Arabic letter,  Arabic lettering for
the word halal or the actual word “halal.” However, products will be
better accepted by the Muslim consumer, if the logo is from the local
halal authority or, in the case of imported products, if it signifies a
reputable halal certification organization.

In conclusion, there
are many opportunities to tap a global halal food market of 1.57 billion
people. The halal logo is an authoritative, independent and reliable
testimony to support halal food claims. Furthermore, it provides 100%
profit of greater market share: no loss of non-Muslim markets/clients.
The halal certification enhances the marketability of products in Muslim
countries/markets and requires a small cost investment, relative to
multiple growth in revenues. Finally, the halal product’s image is
boosted to meet varied customer needs. pf

— For a more in-depth and technical
discussion on ingredient selections for halal products, see a PowerPoint
presentation with audio given by Dr. Riaz at the 2008 Prepared
’ R&D Applications Seminars in Chicago; locate it by going
to or typing in
“How to Formulate Food Products for the Halal Market” in the search field — Type
in “Nutritional Supplements for Halal and Kosher Consumers”

Steps Involved in Halal Certification:

1. Filling out an
application to the organization on paper or Internet.  Review of the
information by the organization, especially the type of the product and
its components.

2. Inspection and approval of the manufacturing
facility. It includes review of the production equipment and physical
ingredients, as well as cleaning procedures, sanitation and chance of

3. For a company, it includes the proper feeding
and humane treatment of animals throughout raising, transporting and
holding prior to slaughter.

4. For slaughterhouses, it involves
hiring trained Muslim slaughtermen and review of slaughtering areas,
including restraining, method of stunning, actual slaying, pre- and
post-slaying, handling, etc.

5. Determining the cost and fees
involved and signing of the contract.

6. Payment of fees and

7. Issuance of the halal certificate.

Mian N. Riaz, Food Protein R&D Center,
Texas A&M University

N. Riaz, Ph.D., is director of the Food Protein Research and
Development Center, Texas A&M University.