Indonesia: Most halal products lack official approval

Just over a third of all the halal products offered for sale in Indonesia actually have official halal certificates, according food and drug monitoring agencies.

Only 41,495 products — 36.73 percent of all products registered at the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) — had official halal certificates, according to the BPOM.

Lukmanul Hakim, the Indonesian Ulema Council’s (MUI) Food and Drug Analysis Agency chairman, said on Tuesday that there was lack of awareness among manufacturers about the need for halal certification.

Halal certification was needed to show that certain products could be safely consumed Muslims and to ensure that the products could be consumed by all people, regardless of religion, due to the healthy and nutritious ingredients and hygienic production process required for halal products, he said.

“Halal certification will assure that the products are safe both in terms of sharia and hygiene,” he said on the sidelines of a hearing with the House of Representatives’ Commission VIII overseeing religious affairs.

According to government regulations on food labeling and advertising, every manufacturer or importer of products to be circulated in the Indonesian market had to declare that their consumable goods were halal.

They were also responsible for affixing halal labels to their products.

A 1996 Health Ministry regulation stipulated that the MUI’s halal certification process would be based on an edict (fatwa) issued by the council’s commission on the use of product ingredients.

The regulation further stipulated that a agreement letter on the use of halal logos would be issued by the BPOM.

“By attaching a halal logo, a manufacturer ensures that the product is safe for Muslims,” Lukmanul said, adding that such certifications were needed since most Indonesians were Muslim.

In fact, many consumable goods circulating in the domestic market lack halal certificates.

The House of Representatives has been deliberating a bill on halal products that would make it mandatory for food and drugs offered for sale in Indonesia to bear a halal label.

The bill, however, has sparked controversy among manufacturers, who said it would be an additional burden on the national economy. The bill was also criticized as superfluous since existing laws regulating food and drugs were sufficient.

Lukmanul, whose organization and the BPOM have been authorized to issue halal certifications, said the bill would hopefully increase awareness on the importance of certification.

According to a BPOM market survey, 54.9 percent of all products with halal logos that it found offered for sale had not been officially certified halal.

“Not all products with halal logos have official halal certificates,” Lukmanul said, adding that most halal logos were counterfeit.

Lukmanul said the situation was worsening since people were unable to determine whether if the products they purchased were genuinely halal.

BPOM director Kustantinah said the agency had continuously monitored consumable goods safety by intensifying pre-and post-sale controls.

“We still find many products improperly using halal logos, however,” she said.

She said that 357 products of 843 products surveyed by the agency in 2010 improperly displayed halal logos, meaning that they actually had no halal certificates.

Lukmanul said that popular awareness of the importance of halal certifications for daily consumable goods had significantly increased.

Citing a recent report, he said 21,837 products were certified halal in 2010, a 100 percent increase from 2009. About 21 percent of the products certified as halal were imported from the US, the EU, Australia, New Zealand and China, among other countries.

“We have seen a sharp increase in interest among foreign manufacturers to obtain halal certificates for their products. This is part of their strategy to win our market,” he said.

He said Chinese manufacturers’ awareness of halal certifications had increased sharply, as evinced by China’s 21 percent share of halal-certified imported products.

“They may think that a halal certification will increase the competitiveness of their products in the Indonesian market,” he said.

In another hearing session on the bil at the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI) chairman Soedaryatmo questioned the government’s ability to make the certification obligatory, saying that it had turned blind eye to companies that have refused to comply with the policy.

“It would be better that the certification is voluntary,” he said as quoted by

He also said that the existing procedure also burdened micro and small companies as certification officials have asked fees to conduct surveillance on their products. (ebf)