Halal and Kosher Standards – Please!

Kosher & halal standards, please

With increasing consumer awareness and concern about healthy eating,
just how mainstream is Kosher and Halal food set to become, asks Ian
many, Halal and Kosher are all but synonymous. Halal, after all, is the
Arabic word meaning ‘permissible’ and Kosher has a similar meaning in
Yiddish. The term Kosher applies specifically to food, whereas Halal,
despite its common usage in English, refers more generally to that
which is acceptable according to Muslim law. And although they do have
many similarities – pork, for example, is not allowed by either faith,
and both have strictures on how livestock should be slaughtered – they
are also quite different: there is no Halal equivalent, for instance,
to the Kosher requirement that meat and dairy foods must not be mixed.
Islam prohibits all intoxicating liquors, while wine is regarded as

And while these ‘high level’ requirements and
distinctions may be easy enough to understand, it becomes more complex
when considering ingredients. Take gelatine and enzymes, both of which
are widely used in the ingredients industry. Whatever its source, many
Jews regard gelatine as Kosher, whereas for Muslims the risk of
contamination with pork products is too high to regard it as safe. The
enzymes used in making cheese, for example, regardless of source are
generally considered Kosher but if the enzyme has a pork origin, it
cannot be considered Halal.

It is a subject of much confusion,
not least because the definitions of Halal and Kosher are largely
subjective, based on interpretations of religious writings, and because
there are multiple authorities, whose positions are more or less
strict, who pronounce on what is acceptable. Broadly, however, a
generalisation can be made that, while Muslims cannot assume that
Kosher foods are permissible, those of the Jewish faith can safely eat
food that is certified as Halal. In theory, therefore, ingredients
manufacturers need only seek Halal certification but the reality is
somewhat different.

“In order to be certified as Halal or
Kosher, a food must not contain any ingredients which are themselves
prohibited,” explains Udi Alroy, marketing director at LycoRed, who
supply nutritional ingredients to the dietary supplement and functional
food industries. “Animal ingredients must all be derived from permitted
species that have been fed permitted ingredients and slaughtered
according to the precise requirements of the respective standards. For
foods to be certified Halal or Kosher, the manufacturer’s operating
procedures must insure that Halal or Kosher ingredients do not come
into contact, not only with non-Halal or non-Kosher ingredients, but
that they don’t even come into contact with equipment that has been in
contact with them”.

Donald Gartland of Furfural Espanol,
manufacturers of Nutrafur botanical extracts and flavonoids for the
food and beverage markets, develops the point. “For Kosher
certification, you need to be aware of the need to control steam and
termic fluids in a chemical process in order to avoid cross
contamination,” he says. “Halal is more stringent in the area of
ensuring that there is a clean process and that the reactors are clean.”

issues are raised. First, there is the requirement for ingredients
manufacturers to ensure that their sources of supply of raw materials
are appropriately certified, and, second, the need for
strictly-enforced processes during manufacturing.

Brenner, vice president of marketing and sales at Solbar, a
manufacturer of specialty soy proteins and soy isoflavones, makes the
point that there is no single authority whose position on Halal and
Kosher compliance is pre-eminent. “In most instances, food ingredients
manufacturers like Solbar are able to meet the stricter
interpretations,” he says. “This can be a challenge when it comes to
manufacturing cost-effective food products.”

It’s a point
echoed by Ohad Cohen, CEO of botanical extracts developer Vitiva.
“Different communities have their own Rabbinate,” he says, “with
different approaches and different scales of supervision. It’s also
important to be aware that, during Passover, Kosher rules and
restrictions become even stricter than usual.”

It is also the
case, according to a number of industry observers, that Kosher
certification is not only more difficult to achieve, but also that
certification – which is renewable yearly – is more expensive. In fact,
the whole process can be an expensive one.

“The cost of
producing Kosher and Halal products is higher than it is for products
that are not certified,” says Cohen, “because the additional
supervision – which involves formula evaluation and the approval of
each ingredient – together with the visits to production sites,
sometimes with full supervision, all require extra expense.”

sees similar additional expense. “While it’s mostly true that a Halal
or Kosher ingredient will be priced competitively with a non-certified
equivalent, that’s not always the case,” he says. “Take gelatine, for
example. That must be sourced from a certified animal and the number of
certified animals that are slaughtered is substantially smaller than
the number of non-certified animals. Demand is greater than supply so
the price goes up.”

“It’s about the time and the manpower that
are needed to meet the requirements, and the need to maintain a
comprehensive audit trail,” says Mark Fanion of Fortitech, a company
that makes nutrient premixes for the food and pharmaceutical
industries. It’s the paper work, among other things, that catch Alroy’s
attention. “After the application has been submitted,” he says, “the
certifying agency will conduct a site visit and determine what steps
you need to take to obtain certification. That might include
identifying new raw materials suppliers to replace non-compliant
ingredients with compliant ones; it might include the development of
new standard operating procedures; and it will almost certainly require
the production and retention of documents that will provide an audit

The industry is pretty much unanimous, however, on
whether the effort and expense of Halal and Kosher certification are
worthwhile. For Brenner, it’s a cost that has to be borne by the
business. “Yes,” he says, “it’s a costly process which does not
necessarily command a higher price from our customers. In effect,
certification is expected of us.” Cohen says, “Since Kosher products
cost more to produce, their price should be higher,” he says. “However,
we don’t charge more for them: it is a part of the service for regular
Kosher supervision. For Passover, it is appropriate to charge a premium
rate, since the costs involved are higher.”

Inevitably, much
depends on the demands of the customer, a point succinctly made by Sam
Sylvetsky, vice president of sales at Fortitech. “Relatively speaking,
it’s not expensive he says. “It should be looked on as an investment, a
positive business decision that will ultimately drive sales and
increase your customer base. It’s worthwhile. Ultimately, certified
products drive greater profit because they open up a larger market.”

he continues, “we’d consider the cost of certification as part of the
cost of doing business, and the customer doesn’t feel any impact as a
result. However, sometimes, a customer can request very specific
certification that may apply only to a narrow range of custom premix
formulations. In that case, we build the cost of certification into the
cost of the premix and those added costs can be a substantial part of
the makeup of the overall premix cost.”

Alroy is in broad
agreement. “Expensive’ is a relative term,” he says. “The initial cost
of complying, and the annual cost of certification, need to be weighed
against the benefit of the expanded opportunity that can be expected to
open up.” It’s a point of view shared by Gartland, who indicates that,
while certified ingredients are not of themselves more profitable, they
open up profitable new markets.

With close to two billion
Muslims worldwide, and having Kosher certification being a
pre-requisite for entry into the American market, it certainly seems as
if the potential customer base is one that no ingredient manufacturer
can afford to ignore. Testimony to that is Cargill Texturing Solutions’
recent announcement that it has developed an Halal alternative to pork
fat. ADROGEL GR is a blend that enables manufacturers to obtain a
restructured fat suitable to replace the pork fat used in many meat
products – allowing food manufacturers to produce meat products that
meet Halal requirements while still benefiting from the functional
qualities associated with pork fat.

But there is a broader
perspective. There is unquestionably growing consumer awareness of, and
concern about, healthy eating, and Halal and Kosher are increasingly
seen as being synonymous with good diet. “More and more people who are
neither Muslim nor Jewish are turning to these certified products
because they believe the products are cleaner and healthier,” says
Dapeng Wang of Gushen Biological Technology Group Co. Limited. “There
is evidence that as many as 70% of those who buy Kosher foods in the
United States are not actually Jewish. For them, the certifications
mean that the products are of higher quality and conform to a
guaranteed standard.”

If this is indeed true – and there is
little reason to doubt it – perhaps it’s only a matter of time before
all food ingredients manufacturers not only achieve Halal and Kosher
certification, but even (and this assumes that certified ingredients
can be developed that are no less tasty, healthy or cost-effective)
move to a position where their manufactured ingredients, – whatever the
end product whichever the market – comply with the requirement.
Rationalising suppliers and simplifying production processes by
developing and producing ingredients that conform to the highest
standards and deliver the largest available market must make good
business sense.