UAE leads global halal standardisation drive

UAE flag

By Shafaat Shahbandari, Gulf News

Dubai: UAE is taking a lead in efforts to create unified global halal standards that would offer a single point of reference and certification to manufacturers, consumers as well as suppliers.

The comprehensive framework of standards and regulations that the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (Esma) is currently formulating will not only cover food but will also regulate cosmetics and personal care products as well as textile and leather products.

The all-encompassing UAE Halal Scheme that Esma has formed and which is currently awaiting cabinet approval will be in place by the end of 2014, Farah Al Zarouni, Director of Standardisation at Esma, told the Halal Symposium at the Dubai International Food Safety Conference.

Farah, who is also the chairperson of Turkey-based Standardisation and Metrology Institute of Islamic Countries (SMIIC), said the UAE Halal Scheme is based on the guidelines issued by SMIIC, which works under the banner of the Organisation of Islamic Countries.

“We are looking at the larger picture and the regulations will govern the entire supply chain from pre-farm to processing, manufacturing, packaging, logistics as well as service. We are taking the halal certification to a whole new level that will give consumers more confidence in consuming various products without any doubt about its status,” said Farah, who presented the various points of the scheme at the symposium.

Another speaker at the symposium, who is the assistant chair of SMIIC, Salih Yuksel, outlined the idea of a unified code.

“We are trying to form a one-point shop for all things halal. A single certification process, single accreditation system and one set of standards for all 57 members of OIC will make life easier for everyone. This will also help many non-Muslim countries who export food products to Muslim countries on a large scale to dispel speculation about their halal status,” said Yuksel.

Though steps have been taken in the right direction, the unification of standards is a work in progress and will take a few years to materialise.

“There are challenges on the way but it can be done. We have to tackle differences of opinion and differences of rulings between various Islamic schools of thoughts in certain matters, but with little deviation here and there it can be worked out. We already have 27 OIC members on board and soon we will have more,” added Yuksel, who is also Deputy Head of the Turkish Accreditation Agency.

Once the unified codes are in place all the parties concerned will have to have a single Halal Mark issued by SMIIC to enter Islamic consumer markets.

In Islam, products considered halal shouldn’t have residues of pork or animals not slaughtered in an Islamic way or traces of alcohol etc, while those that contain these elements are considered haram or unacceptable.

Besides the above, products that are genetically modified also come under the scanner for their halal status.