Halal Consumer Magazine
IFANCA receives many questions about ingredients and products, such as:
Is the gelatin in this product Halal?
Is the whey in this other product Halal?
Can we eat in fast food restaurants? Etc., etc.!
We also come across numerous articles about food fraud, many of them sent in by Halal consumers, seeking verification of the acceptability of products. A recent news story on the BBC reported that an investigation by the UK. Food Standards Agency (FSA) found “thousands of tons of chicken are still being ‘bulked up’ to make them look bigger than they are”. ‘Bulking up’ means adding items to the chicken, such as protein powder mixed in water, to make them heavier than they normally would be. Protein powder could come from beef, pork, chicken or any other source. Amazingly, the practice is not illegal! However, inaccurate labeling is illegal.
The FSA examined 25 samples of chicken. Of the 25 samples, 15 contained less chicken meat than claimed; 12 contained DNA of beef or pork; 11 of the 12 samples containing beef or pork were labeled Halal and 18 were described as chicken breast or fillet when in fact they were not. Believe it or not, the FSA ‘is considering’ whether to take legal action against the responsible firms.
Consumer fraud cannot be condoned at all. The consumer places a trust in the food producers and the regulatory agencies to provide food with accurate labeling about ingredients and sources of ingredients. Halal consumers go beyond this by placing their trust in the Halal certifying agency that supervises the production of the Halal product. Consumers have a right to expect that each party is carrying out their duties and responsibilities with due diligence and commitment.
Halal consumers have a right to know what a product contains; that a meat product contains meat and meat-derived ingredients from animals slaughtered according to Islamic Law; that the products meet the standards of an authentic Halal certifying body and have been approved for sale as Halal by that body and that the legal authorities will prosecute anyone fraudulently selling non-Halal product under the Halal label.
The consumer should expect to see a Halal label on real Halal products. That label should identify the Halal certifying agency. They should be able to contact the agency and confirm the product displaying their label is really Halal.
The producer of authentic Halal products should place the certifier’s Halal symbol on the product, to remove any doubt or suspicion about the true Halal nature of the product. Every Halal certified product should indicate the certifier to make sure there is no fraud or self-certification by the producers or the marketers.
Few Muslim countries prevent the entry of all haram products. However, most exercise some diligence in screening products and at least making sure the haram ones can be distinguished from the Halal ones. That is not necessarily the case in non-Muslim countries, even ones with a significant number of Halal consumers. In the United States, 5 states have passed Halal legislation that protects Halal consumers from fraud. Other states are working on similar legislation. A predominantly Muslim region in China has also passed similar legislation. However, most of the countries of the world do not have any protection for the Halal consumer. It is up to the Halal consumers to make sure they check the products ask the necessary questions and avoid haram products as best they can.
To all the Halal consumers who ask about the acceptability of various products, we say, “Keep on asking us. We are happy to respond. But the best advice we can give is: Insist on Halal certified products from the food producers and work with your legislators to pass Halal laws in your state, province or country.”