Halal standards are on the menu for UAE

Armina Lagaya

DUBAI // A more comprehensive set of halal food standards outlining
proper Sharia-compliant practices from slaughtering to food additives
could be approved by the UAE Cabinet within weeks, the country’s
quality standard authority says.

The Emirates Authority for
Standardisation and Metrology Abu Dhabi (ESMA) approved revised
technical regulations and submitted them to the Government for approval
11 days ago.

They should be approved by next month, said Mohammed Badri, a consultant with ESMA.

regulations will help UAE consumers feel more confident that products
in the Emirates are Sharia-compliant, said Saleh Abdullah Lootah, the
managing director of Al Islami foods, the country’s leading halal food

“Consumers have been demanding such regulation and
they have had enough from people claiming that they are halal and they
are not halal,” he said. “Or the consumer finds out after eating the
product that its not 100 per cent halal.”

Valued at an estimated Dh7.7 trillion (US$2.09tn), the global
Sharia-compliant products and services industry has grown significantly
in recent years, extending beyond just food to cosmetics, shipping
companies, hotels and finance. In the UAE alone, it is valued at an
estimated Dh550 million. However, as more and more companies adopt
halal practices to appeal to these consumers, debate has grown around
exactly what makes a product halal.

The UAE does
not have its own regulations, but has followed guidelines set out by
the Gulf Standards Organisation (GSO), based in Riyadh. However, Mr
Lootah said these guidelines were outdated and did not address modern
manufacturing processes.

The revised rules, approved by the
GSO in May and adopted by the ESMA, go beyond just slaughtering to
address other issues such as whether food additives are derived from
pork, said Dr Gasim Ahmed, a senior standards specialist at GSO.

“Anything in the products should be produced from halal sources, including ingredients and processing aids,” he said.

global halal standard is in the works. A draft was presented at the
World Halal Forum in Kuala Lumpur in May and is now up for public
debate and review until the end of the year, said Darhim Hashim, the
chief executive of the International Halal Integrity Alliance.

first draft addressed food service, logistics, animal welfare and
handling, and slaughter, he said. An additional draft set of
regulations dealing with other halal issues will be ready for next
year’s global halal forum, he said.

“It takes halal to a much better level, and really moves it up from
an unregulated cottage industry to a much more professional, regulated
industry,” he said from Kuala Lumpur, where the non-profit organisation
is based.

The updated standards come at a time when the halal
market is growing in the UAE. Maher al Jannan, the export head at the
Khazan Meat Factory in Sharjah, said its sales had grown by 200 per
cent across the Middle East, and by 75 per cent in the UAE this year,
compared with last year.

It plans to boost its production, at 650 tonnes of mutton and beef
monthly, by 30 per cent this year, he said at the World Halal Expo in

Jalel Aossey, the director of the food company Midamar,
based in the US, said his sales in the Middle East so far this year had
grown by 38 per cent, adding sales had grown by 150 per cent in the
UAE, in part because the company is relatively new to the Emirates.
Midamar recently opened an office in Dubai, its first outside the US.

About 80 companies from 22 countries came to exhibit their halal
products at the exhibition, which is double last year’s attendance,
said the expo director Nafees Ahmed.

Mr Hashim said the growth
follows growing awareness of halal as a healthy option, especially
after recent incidents involving food contamination.

“We are
not just buying food prepared locally, everything comes from
everywhere,” he said. “And when you see evidence of that integrity
breaking down, it’s sort of a wake-up call.”