“Halal” means permitted in Arabic “” or “permitted”. What is halal, corresponds to the law of the Quran. And that means more than just not consuming pork or alcohol, and more than the controversial ritual slaughter of livestock for slaughter.
“It’s a philosophy of life,” says Mounir Khouzami from the Swiss Arab Network, “which will serve to promote economic relations between Switzerland and the Arab countries.”
The topic of halal can be politically charged
Halal Standards are applicable not only for food, but also in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, logistics and travel: “One is intent on cleanliness and purity,” says Khouzami, so that could also be associated with Switzerland.
The Halal topic can be politically charged. Companies who advertise with the label “halal”, could have a response in social media with a boycott call for instance, such as was previously done with products in Australia. Mondelez therefore foregoes promoting this latest achievement and says: “Halal certification is not attached to the pack.” They do not like to promote the Halal verification, in order to keep it open for the public as there is no difference in the product they know.
“Swiss companies do sometimes find it difficult, to market Halal products”, says Mounir Khouzami: “they are afraid ‘to scare’ Swiss consumers.” But Halal standardization belongs to the future, he is convinced.
Nestlé has over 100 Halal factories
Nestlé, the largest food company in the world, produces Halal in a similar way. A former CEO of Néstle, said almost ten years ago that it is clear the number one need in the world is to make Halal food. The Plan seems to be working. 80 plants, were certified Halal, for products made by Nestlé but there are “over 100 factories,” a spokeswoman stressed. In the meantime, every fourth Nestlé factory is under supervision for Halal compliance.
100 products are already halal, said a spokeswoman for butter and milk powder for the industry, including yoghurt, desserts and cheese for export to the Middle East and the far East.
Halal products are buzzing in the world market
The demand is growing rapidly with the growth in the Muslim population of the world. In France, with around six million Muslims, the division of Halal has already surpassed organic food. In addition to the Arab region, there are also the Asian boom countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, along with the rest of the Islamic world.
“Ten out of 25 of the fastest-growing markets have large Muslim populations,” says Khouzami. Therefore, he advises Managers, to segment less geographically, and to plan to cater to this global Muslim requirement.
With nearly two billion Muslim consumers of Halal products they are on the verge of changing the world market. The first Swiss food companies have recognized the signs of the time, apparently.
Response By Farhan Tufail who leads a team of halal experts for Halal Certification Services in Switzerland
No, Toblerone has not been audited by his team, says Farhan Tufail, with regard to the Halal certification of Toblerone everyone is talking about right now. He is General Manager of Halal Certification Services (HCS) at Rheinfelden AG. His team inspects and certifies products so that Muslims can consume them without hesitation.
A negative message by Jörg Meuthen (57), the head of Far Right group AFD, that Bern’s chocolate is Halal certified went around the world last week. He reacted by inciting his people in Germany to boycott Toblerone.
“The HCS goal is to help Swiss companies export their products all over the world, so we do not want to give them negative publicity,” says Halal certifier, Tufail, who regrets the controversy surrounding Toblerone. He estimates that there are around 1000 certification companies around the world. In Switzerland, they are the only ones to award halal certifications. However, it is customary that international competition in Switzerland also verify companies there.
About 200 companies are among HCS customers. Half are from Switzerland, the other from the rest of Europe. The companies mainly produce for export to the Far East, for countries like Malaysia or Indonesia, where the 2014 law provided that all goods entering the country had to be certified halal starting 2019. They do not certify any product for the internal market.
Tufail would prefer not to name their customers without their consent, with one exception: Nestlé, the largest producer of food products in the world which is its largest customer. The cooperation is close, HCS exists thanks to Nestlé. In the 1980s, Saudi Arabia blocked a shipment of their aromas from the port of Jeddah. The problem was alcohol and animal fats, from which flavors are sometimes made. HCS could help.
Inspectors are food technologists, not imams
Halal certification can basically become all that man consumes or uses on the outside. Tufail explains: “These include typical Swiss foods: cheese or dairy products,” explains Tufail. “Food and pharmaceuticals are also part of it.” The most critical food for Muslims is meat. “We do not certify halal slaughter,” says Tufail. As this is not practised in Switzerland owing to government legislation.
HCS has about 30 employees, 25 work in companies. “Probably one of the biggest misunderstandings on the subject of Halal is that they are imams, but they are actually qualified food technologists,” explains Tufail. They check raw materials, additives, production processes. “We are looking all the way from storage of raw materials to packaging during operation.” The main criterion is that there is no contamination by banned raw materials. For example, there are no pork byproducts in the products or in the machine’s grease from the plant, and no alcohol. Rheinfelden’s certificates are recognized around the world.
Halal experts reside in Switzerland and many of them work as scientists in local universities. “At the moment, they are all practising Muslims,” ??says Tufail. If the person brings knowledge on the subject, everyone can do it. This was the case before.
In Muslim countries, the certification boom will continue for some time, he is convinced. Until everything is certified, the market will be exhausted. However, he does not think that halal products will become part of the national range. “If local people understand that halal is just another qualitative trait like organic, vegan or non-GMO, then maybe that’s not the case.”
Response from: Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Washington, D.C
The anti-halal issue “is of those recurring Islamaphobic themes not only in this country, but around the world,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights and advocacy group. “Food is something universal and that’s why the haters latch onto it. It’s something that touches everyone and they see this as a productive vehicle for their bigotry.”