UK: HFA defends stance on certification process

By Nicholas Robinson,

HFAThe Halal Food Authority (HFA) has spoken out against claims made about its auditing and certification practices in light of the discovery of pork DNA in halal foods made by a producer it certifies.

It was revealed by the Food Standards Authority (FSA) on 1 February that the Ministry of Justice had found traces of pork DNA in halal beef pastry products intended to be consumed by prisoners in England and Wales. The food distributor 3663 then revealed it had taken products made by McColgan’s Quality Food out of distribution because traces of pork DNA were found in some beef pastry products after testing.

In a statement, the Halal Food Authority (HFA) said it was working with the FSA and wanted to reassure the public that no pork meat was found in halal products meant for prisons in England and Wales. The statement said: “The products were being produced by McColgan’s under contract for 3663 supplying food to prisons. This does not appear to be a deliberate attempt to introduce another meat. Instead, traces of pig DNA in meat products were found as a result of ultra-sensitive DNA testing.”

The HFA statement highlighted HFA’s “stringent and well-regulated” auditing systems for approving and accrediting halal meat, poultry and foodstuffs. The statement said: “Halal Food Authority has now been accrediting producers, manufacturers and processors of halal meat and poultry for nearly two decades contractually.

“We are also proud to be one of the first to emphasise the use of scientifically advanced methods, including the use of DNA testing. As such, until now we have been using DNA testing sporadically whenever it was deemed useful.”

Furthermore, the HFA said, before it takes a supplier or manufacturer on board for membership, the supplier has to declare whether any pork-based products are prepared or stored under the same roof. It said there must then be physical separation between the products requiring halal certification and non-halal products.

“Once the company agrees to this principle, the next step is to arrange for audits and all relevant raw materials and recipe information is inspected, checked and validated. Halal Certification is only granted once all parameters of halal authenticity and traceability are met. Certification is then followed by routine checks and announced and unannounced audits,” it added.

The incident has led to unrest in the Muslim community, along with a call from the Lancashire Council of Mosques for the boycott of HFA-certified products. A request has also been made by the Muslim Arbitration Council for the HFA to attend a public inquiry held by it.

The HFA said the situation was still being investigated. could not get hold of anyone from McColgan’s for comment.