ASEAN: Leading the Way to the Halal Revolution
Lets go to McDonald’s for lunch. It is all Halal. Far fetched? Not really; Not in Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia. All of the two hundred plus McDonald’s in Malaysia are totally Halal, directly supervised by the Government. So are many of the other western style restaurants like KFC, A&W, Pizza Hut and other food establishments. Not only the meat items that are offered there are Halal certified, all the condiments, sauces, even French fries are also certified Halal. Before you enter a restaurant, a Halal sign (official Halal logo) greets you.
Earlier this year IFANCA officials visited several of the ASEAN countries to learn about their Halal programs. It was learnt that five of six ASEAN member nations now have Halal programs sponsored, endorsed or even executed by their respective governments. As you may know IFANCA has been certifying Halal for the past 15 years, products exported to Malaysia and Singapore. Now Indonesia is coming on very strong in requiring Halal certification of all products. We are fortunate that our relationship in Malaysia with the Government authorities, known as Pusat Islam has been extraordinarily strong and both parties have gained tremendously from this working relationship.
In meeting with Pusat Islam officials, the sentiments and feelings expressed openly indicated that IFANCA is well known among major food industries, importers, consumer groups. Pusat Islam has been impressed with the professionalism and sincerity of purpose of IFANCA and fully supports IFANCA. Pusat Islam acknowledged IFANCA’s contribution towards Halal certification in North America and Europe. Our standards and guidelines are similar to that of Malaysia. We have identical agenda, which is to promote truly Halal concepts and trade. It is indeed a privilege to have been given the recognition that IFANCA is currently the only organization approved by Pusat Islam to certify Halal processed foods originating from North America and Europe. This visit to Malaysia reinforced our commitment to continue working together for the benefit of the Muslim consumer. During this trip we were also able to meet the organization approved by the Malaysian Government to conduct Halal audits on behalf of Pusat Islam. IFANCA has good working relationship with this body known as Ilham Daya. They are committed towards working with us drawing from IFANCA’s experience and expertise in Halal inspection and certification.
In Singapore we met Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) and Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI). Halal program in Singapore is run by MUIS’s Halal unit headed by Mr. Zahid Ahmad. Halal program is under the direct supervision of the Mufti of Singapore, who started the program more than a decade ago. Singapore’s population is predominantly Chinese with about 18% Muslims (about half a Million). Singapore is strategically located among 300 million people strong Halal market. It is fast becoming a distribution hub for Halal products for the entire region. Although Singapore is not a Muslim country but Muslims have a strong influence on the local restaurant industry. All McDonald’s, KFC, A&W and several other stores provide Halal food and are under the MUIS supervision.
Indonesia is the largest nation in ASEAN region with 200 million people, with 90% Muslim population. Indonesia offers a huge potential for multinational food and food service companies. Many of the Western style food establishments like Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s offer Halal food under the supervision of Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI).
Late last year senior government officials and the chief of MUI Halal unit, Dr. Professor Aisjah Girindra visited the USA. During Dr. Aisjah’s visit we were honored to host a meeting to discuss issues related to Halal certification for foods for the Indonesian market. Dr. Aisjah observed that IFANCA Halal guidelines were similar to the Indonesian guidelines. She expressed the desire to work together for the common goal. IFANCA was invited to Indonesia for further discussions and to observe Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) activities. Fortunately, a Halal inspection visit to PT Capsugel, Indonesia, presented the right opportunity to carry out dual inspection. This trip marked the beginning of very close and warm relationship which included drafting of a memorandum of understanding between IFANCA and Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI). Through this agreement both parties will conduct inspections for each other as well as cooperate and share technical know how and expertise for mutual benefit.