From the Publisher’s Desk
Muhammad Munir Chaudry
IFANCA concluded the 17th International Halal Food Conference here in the suburbs of Chicago.
Over 115 people from 18 countries representing industry leaders, government regulators, Islamic scholars, and halal-certifying bodies were present as 37 speakers and panelists discussed and debated topics ranging from halal standards and regulations to gelatin and enzymes and even animal welfare and insects as food. In thirteen sessions spread over three days, attendees listened, questioned, and discussed these and other issues they face in understanding and producing halal-certified products.
It is interesting to note that Muslims spent over $1.3 trillion on food in 2013. That’s right, $1.3 trillion. The numbers spell opportunity for food producers, and we see that every day as more and more companies apply for halal certification. But it isn’t all rosy. The industry expressed their readiness to meet any set of halal specifications but they were concerned about having to meet different specifications for different geographic regions. They were also concerned about the acceptability of the halal certifications they receive. While they would like to see a single global halal standard, they realize that isn’t likely to happen any time soon. In lieu of that, they would like to see a global body that can accredit halal certifiers. Regulators also want to see a global halal standard, and they have been working on it for years. While there has been progress, they have yet to reach a consensus. In the meantime, government bodies like the EU are working on their own halal standard, and non-Muslim bodies like SGS are trying to enter the halal certification field. This is not in the interest of the halal consumer.
Halal consumers need to engage with the industry and the regulators. Islamic scholars need to work with food scientists to ensure the resulting halal assurance system meets the needs of all parties. Consumers can no longer limit their concern to meat items. Today’s food industry is complex and even the simplest products have a multitude of ingredients sourced from all over the world. The only assurance consumers have that a product is halal is the certification of a competent and reputable halal-certifying body. Consumers must understand that food companies respond to consumer demand, not halal-certifier requests. If consumers ask for halal-certified products, they will likely get them. Halal-certification bodies do not influence the company decision to get halal-certified; they only help them achieve halal certification once they commit to the idea. The industry made it clear in the conference that they are listening to the voices in the market. Make sure your voice is heard and don’t limit yourself to meat.
Muhammad Munir Chaudry. president