WHS: International accreditation schemes for halal certification bodies

download-150x98A universally standardised recognition is highly recommended for the Halal industry to ensure trade continue to flourish without additional technical barriers being imposed.

This was among the central ideas mooted during the morning session of the second day in the ongoing World Halal Summit (WHS) 2015 happening until tomorrow here at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

As it stands, accreditation and certifiers are working individually and independently due to the absence of a dedicated global leadership body.

“In most cases, Halal integrity within the supply chain cannot be verified throughout the entire system,” said Salih Yuksel, SMIIC AC Chair and Acting Head, System Accreditation Department, Turkish Accreditation Agency (TURKAK).”There is certainly a demand and dire need to address this weak point within the Halal certification bodies,” he said during the Certifiers Forum at WHS 2015 earlier.

Among the common oversights by Halal certification bodies are the lack of transparency and competency. The fact that there are more than a thousand Halal accreditation bodies worldwide that are not following any specific Halal procedure is a telling sign.Acknowledging that the discrepancies in Islamic knowledge and practices are most likely the reasons for the impartiality, Salih said the industry must remain focused in moving forward regardless of the differences.

A staggering 85 per cent of products and raw materials produced today come from non-Muslim countries where Halal accreditation processes are actually more advanced than that of the Muslim countries.

Despite this however, a positive development is currently underway with the formation of a uniformed Halal Standard using ISO methodologies to be implemented by Dubai-led Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries, SMIIC.

SMIIC is an affiliate body of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) established in 2010 with the main objectives to prepare OIC/SMIIC Halal standard to achieve uniformity in metrology, laboratory, testing and standardisation. A total of 31 member states out of the 56 OIC Islamic states are currently members, with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Malaysia being the latest to join since November last year.

“A unified Halal system will result in a mutual recognition of certificates through a recognised accreditation, reassure customer’s trust and diminish technical barriers to trade with mutual recognition,” said Sevde Özbey from SMIIC Secretariat.

“The uniformity of Halal standards developed by SMIIC, which is an intergovernmental institution, will pave the way for better economic relations within the industry. We want to promote one standard and one test that are recognized throughout the globe,” she added.

Meanwhile, another interesting point raised during the fourth session at the Certifiers Forum is the lack of research undertaken to understand the demographics, demand and perception of the Halal industry by both Muslim and non-Muslim consumers.

“This is probably the only industry that has a market potential of a whopping USD3 trillion; yet there are no research carried out to address the existing problems and implication of it to the industry,” senior lecturer Hull University Business School, UK Dr Haseeb Shabir said.

There is a dire need to find out the perception and reason to customer’s alienation towards Halal products and services before undertaking a global education and awareness campaign to correct the misconception.

“Is it Islamophobia or ethical threat, or could it be stereotyping?” asks Haseeb. “There were reports that Halal industry is viewed negatively because it funds terrorism activities. All these concerns are often mentioned and it needs to be taken seriously and addressed accordingly. Industry players, organisations and everyone involved must invest in a cutting edge research specifically in Halal,” he said.

OIC has again been called to help assist this initiative to engage in an active public relations and awareness campaign to explain and stress on Halal as a healthier choice and not reinforcing the wrong and misleading perception of the industry.