Monday, 5 January 2009

Halal Food: Is it halal enough?


Interesting article from Arab News:

However, many international companies — in accordance with plans for global expansion and to stay financially afloat in the current financial crisis — are using the halal industry to get an edge on their competitors without using or even being correctly educated on methods of Islamic slaughter.

“Ninety-five percent of American food items found in supermarket shelves in the UAE and other GCC countries are not halal even though they may be certified as such,” said Jalel Aossey, director of Midamar, a US-based international food supplier and one of the first Muslim– owned business groups to offer halal food and food-service equipment to North America since 1974.

Aossey, who was speaking at the Halal World Expo, said there is a significant flow of non-halal food items entering the local region especially from meat-supplying countries. He added that Gulf countries need tougher regulations to stop the flow.

Corrupt certifiers, he said, are also to blame for the problem as they get a taste for the money generated producing halal certificates for companies without actually performing any work. He added that he advises countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia to send inspectors to food producing countries to ensure proper halal standards are being upheld.

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One method mentioned is the mechanical or machine slaughtering approach, which was first initiated by slaughterhouses in Western countries and which has gained momentum as being acceptable in other Muslim countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.

The method consists of a Muslim pronouncing the name of Allah as he switches on a machine that inserts a cut into an animal’s neck. The problem, however, according to the authors, is that up to 30 percent of the initial incisions made to the animal by the machine does not accurately go all the way through in killing the animal the first time. There is, therefore, a second Muslim butcher standing by to re-cut the neck to conclude the procedure, causing undo suffering to the animal. The book also stated that some non-Muslim companies who are diversifying their product lines to include halal products have got round certain Islamic procedures to gain certification. “Some companies have been found to use a recording of a Muslim pronouncing the name of Allah before the butcher proceeds with slaughter,” it said.

Not only are corrupt certification methods going on in Western countries but also in the Middle Eastern and African regions, said a local businessman who asked to be anonymous. He said he once imported sheep from South Africa and although the certifying body knew that the animals were not slaughtered according to proper Islamic procedure issued a halal certification and sold the animals to him.

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