Voice of the Cape
Despite the shocking revelations made after two studies undertaken by the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Western Cape about the level of mislabeling in the SA meat industry, Muslim consumers are still not aware enough of how this impacts on their right to consume halal. That was the view of Sheik Achmat Sedick, acting head of the Muslim Judicial Council Halal Trust (MJCHT), who stated that matters were not helped by a decided lack of scientific expertise in the halal industry.
“In my experience, Muslim consumers generally have short memories. Once the control measures are put into place and everything is hunky dory, there is an initial ?alal consciousness of what he/she buys. However, as time goes on routine steps in and the ?alal consciousness steps out by the back door. We need to be much more vigilant and stringent with the meat/chicken producers, suppliers and processors because the problem lies with them and not with the consumers,” the alim emphasised.
He said South African authorities will have to formulate more stringent measures for the enforcement of the statutory requirements of the labeling of any product or merchandize that a consumer would eat or drink. “Penalty clauses must be enforced for every offense. This will minimize and/or obviate any misdemeanors, mislabeling, misinformation or any other unethical behavior in the food and consumer industry.”
Asked if the US and UWC reports both meant that the SA meat industry was in trouble, Sedick said: “To a certain extent, yes, but it only affects their business. In the worse case scenario, the violators, transgressors and offenders may be penalized and regulated, but once the dust has settled, they will revert to their old tricks if no statutory control measures are put into place. Fundamentally, it is an issue of survival and the monitory ‘values’ or monopolies and can implemented to keep head above water.”
However, for Muslims and the MJCHT it is a spiritual matter, he said. “For us it is about ?alal, wholesome and nutritious (?al?lan ?ay-yiban) food and drink that enter into a Muslim mouth to his/her stomach on a daily basis.” Muslims believe that if they consume what is not halal for them, it has a direct affect on their spiritual life.
At the same time, Sedick expressed the MJCHT’s appreciation and gratitude to the tertiary institutions “for having taken the rigorous measures and academic approaches to ensure that people, at least, are knowledgeable and/or informed about what they eat. We also extend our gratitude to them for emphasizing the sensitivities for respecting people as honorable human beings and dignifying their belief systems.”
He emphasised that respect, dignity, honor, integrity and honesty are fundamental universal human right that were also Islamic values. “These are willfully trampled on, deceitfully violated and the consumer’s integrity fraudulently impinged by those meat debauchers, just because of greed and wanting to monopolize the meat industry. This meat deceit and violation of people’s integrity is so gross that it deserves to be investigated by a commission of inquiry so that more stringent regulations are enforced and to bring the offenders to book.”
According to Sedick, the expertise shown by the universities to investigate the meat industry, using their scientists and laboratories, was grossly lacking in the ?alal industry in South Africa. “If we had more experts like Dr Donna-Maree Cawthorn and Prof. Louw Hoffman of US, South Africa would have more food safety, ensuing a secure and disease-free country,” he said.
“My humble appeal is for food technologists, dieticians, pharmacists, academics and other experts in the food industry to step up voluntarily and contribute – perhaps 1% or more of their time per day or per week – to help the MJCHT to develop increased ?alal consciousness, elevating the SA halal certification, ?alal standards and the halal industry in general,” he urged.