By Norshazlina Nor’azman
KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) — The recent brouhaha over claims that certain chocolates from a leading multinational confectionery contained porcine (pig) DNA and the subsequent denial of the claim piqued public curiosty on how the Halal status is determined and who are the parties behind it.
Also why there were two agencies – the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Chemistry Department – involved in determining the Halal status and which one is the most authoritative source?
According to the Director of the Islamic Development Department (JAKIM), Datuk Othman Mustapha, only the findings of the Chemistry Department could be taken into consideration in the Malaysian Halal Certification Procedure Manual (MPPHM) as only the department has the expertise to conduct highly specialised tests.
ACCREDITED BY THE STANDARDS DEPARTMENT
He said the Chemistry Department laboratory has been gazatted as a competent food laboratory in conducting analysis on food. The department is also accredited by Malaysia Standards Department under the Malaysia Laboratory Accreditation Scheme based on the Standard MS ISO/IEC 17025: 2005 for DNA testing.
Meanwhile, the MoH’s lab has been accredited by the Standards Department to conduct tests on meat and seafood based products and not processed food.
Othman pointed out the test conducted by the Ministry are solely on samples available on the market, that could have been contaminated.
Food samples should come from the factory right from the onset of the manufacturing process, taking into account the raw ingredients, the process flow, storage, and the machines and equipment used.
“The analysis to determine the Halal/haram status is not an easy one. The society may think it is really easy, put the sample under the microscope and straight away look for the presence of the incriminating DNA.
“In fact it is a highly technical process and calls for close observation and stringent procedure, in line with the Halal concept of ‘from the farm to the dining table’ to ensure nothing is left out scrutiny,” Othman said in an interview at his office in Putrajaya.
In getting the Halal seal, the onus is on the owner of the product to kick start the certification process.
Othman pointed out that it starts with the product owner applying for the Halal status through the e-Halal system and only then the evaluation processes begins.
They have to declare all their products and ingredients used including the supplier of the ingredients and whether the suppliers have the Halal certification or otherwise.
“If all the raw ingredients have the Halal certification from JAKIM or recognised foreign counterparts, the certification can be used as supporting documents.
“We are very careful about this. If are doubtful on the ingredient, we will take samples and send to the Chemistry Department for auditing before granting any approval,” he said.
He said the auditing will also be carried out at the processing plants to ensure the Halal aspects are conformed with.
“The ingredients will be counter checked to see whether they have been declared including through the purchase invoices and prove of purchase and the use of the products.
“The manufacturing process is also emphasized including the process flow, equipment, the cleanliness relating to the environment and the workers,” Othman said.
Othman noted that JAKIM has made it mandatory for multinational firms to put in place a Halal guarantee system or appoint an in-house Halal executive to monitor the manufacturing process and ensure that the process conforms with the Halal requirement.
“Recently we agreed that the firms should conduct their own monitoring by sending the samples of the ingredients to the accredited labs,” he said.
Even after the Halal certification is issued, surprise checks are conducted at the premises at least once a year.
As for companies in the high risk sector, the ones involved meat and poultry based products, oil and fats, abattoirs, and those without Halal control system , without Halal executive or internal Halal committee, surprise checks will be conducted a number times each year.
If there is public complaints, JAKIM along with enforcement agencies like the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry, MoH, Veternary Services Department, Customs and local authorities will conduct surprise checks.
“Follow-up verification will also be conducted if measures have been taken to correct the problems for failing to conform with the MPPHM,” he said.
He pointed out that warnings would be given for minor violations and if it involves serious violations the Halal certification could be withdrawn for good.