If you look closely enough at the back of the packet, you just might see it. A small symbol, identifying a product as Halal. From pies to Anzac biscuits, Halal certification is opening traditional Australian products to emerging markets. So why do some consumers object? Bush Telegraph investigates.
Increased trade with the Middle East and South East Asia means Halal certification is a booming business in Australia.
The sector is projected to be worth $1.6 trillion worldwide by 2050, and Australian food exporters are racing to get into the market.
I think Australia is quite proud of its ability to produce Halal meat to international requirements, while doing it in a humane way.
Jon Condon, journalist
Halal food has been prepared according to Islamic law, and is free from pork products, alcohol and certain other ingredients. A variety of Islamic groups are involved in Halal certification, with companies who wish their products to carry a Halal label paying fees for inspection and certification.
According to beef industry journalist Jon Condon, Halal certification is widespread in Australia and can be a big money earner for meat processors.
‘What it means is when the various body parts are divided up it gives those export meatworks the flexibility to sell certain items, including meat cuts and offal, into Halal markets.’
‘In some cases, it can be the highest paying markets, so it’s all part of finding the optimum market for each individual item.’
Mr Condon says Australia has a good reputation in terms of its ability to meet Halal requirements.
‘We are able to sell Halal certified products into the Middle East, South East Asia and other communities around the world.’
‘I think Australia is quite proud of its ability to produce Halal meat to international requirements, while doing it in a humane way.’
This certification process has angered a small number of consumers, however. Kirralie Smith is the founder of Halal Choices and does not support Halal labelling. Ms Smith and other anti-Halal activists claim certification fees are being directed to mosques which aim to impose Sharia law in Australia. She says her objections are not about racism, however.
‘There are companies wanting to make a lot of money out of it,’ says Ms Smith.
‘A lot of these companies are just paying the certification because they don’t want the hassle.’
Dr Muhammad Khan, the CEO of Halal Australia, says there is nothing wrong with money from Halal certification going to mosques.
‘It is absolutely not necessary to talk about this subject matter,’ he says.
‘Don’t [Kosher certification organisations] fund their own synagogues? Why can’t the Islamic certification body give donations to mosque projects?’
Mr Khan says accusations of secrecy are misguided, and the Halal certification process is helping the Australian economy grow.
The Byron Bay Cookie Company, which has been certified Halal for 10 years, recently became the target of anti-Halal campaigners, who objected to the company’s Anzac biscuits carrying the Halal label.
‘It hasn’t been easy, we’ve had a lot of calls and emails that have been quite aggressive where we have had to ask the police to step in,’ the company’s CEO, Keith Byrne, told ABC News.
‘We as an iconic brand have been targeted but ultimately if people look at any major producer will typically have Halal depending on the countries they supply too.’
Like meat processors who say Halal is no different to certification for grain-fed and grass-fed cattle, Mr Byrne compares Halal to gluten-free labelling.
‘The Halal company that certifies us is based in Sydney, they come and they audit us and then they go away again, they don’t bless our foods, they don’t bless our site, there’s no religious context to it, they check our hygiene and they check that there’s no alcohol there.’