Encourages Muslims to Question Food Producers
In the wake of a series of food scares and examples of contamination of supposedly halal food products by materials such as horse meat and pig DNA, a British food professional has launched his own investigation into the value of halal food manufacturers’ claims.
Faruk Vali is managing director of a Lancashire based halal food business and, having developed an insider’s view of the industry, he made the decision to launch his own blog. The site – www.choosinghalal.org <http://www.choosinghalal.org> – is intended to help ordinary Muslim consumers to make more informed choices about the foods that they eat by providing details about what ‘halal’ and ‘halal certified’ stamps really mean.
“I started by looking at the question of halal certification. In practice, there is very little to stop an unscrupulous manufacturer from sticking a ‘halal’ stamp on almost any item of food packaging, regardless of whether its ingredients have been checked and processed in accordance with halal requirements. Consequently, any kind of third party accreditation is better than none at all because it all seeks to give the consumer at least some degree of protection.
“The next question was whether those certification agencies observed the same standards – in other words, do they check for the same things and in the same ways?
“There are several different certification bodies operating in the UK and it’s clear that they operate according to very different principles. Some will accept stunning; others will not. Some appear to accept mechanical slaughter; others do not. Some check via a system of periodic ‘spot checks’ whilst others will only award certification if the company has a full time, independent inspector stationed on the factory floor.
“In short, there is still a great deal of difference between the various systems and when the consumer sees a ‘halal certified’ label on a product, it can still be very difficult to know exactly what that means.
“The other big problem is that some of the certification agencies seem to be quite cagey about the criteria and the methods they use. I work for a halal certified company so I know what its particular monitoring agency looks for, but trying to obtain detailed information from some of the other bodies was almost impossible. If it’s difficult for me – as someone who works within the industry – to find out what a given halal-certified stamp means, then what hope does the ordinary consumer have?
“The goal of the new blog is to produce an honest and accurate comparison between the different certification agencies – what they check for; how they operate and so on. I have been as accurate as I possibly could but it’s a difficult field in which to gather hard facts so I’m hoping that the agencies themselves will check the blog and write in with any corrections or updates. The blog is intended to help people make better choices about the foods they eat, so I’d ask the certification bodies to use it as an opportunity to give consumers clearer information about their work.”
The early results of Faruk’s ongoing research can be found at www.choosinghalal.org <http://www.choosinghalal.org> .