So you have been mulling over the possibility of entering the halal certified products business. Well, if you want to get to know what is involved and what steps to take, you have come to the right place. Let us start at the very beginning. What does IFANCA do? In a nutshell, the organization examines the lists of ingredients that go into products ranging from food to personal care items, production processes and machinery used. IFANCA determines whether those processes and ingredients are halal or not. If not halal, our clients, the manufacturers are informed as to what would be a suitable halal substitute. Only once those changes are made, do we proceed to label a product as IFANCA halal certified.


Fundamentals of Halal Foods:

All foods pure and clean are permitted for Muslims; except the following, including any products derived from them or contaminated with them: 1) carrion or dead animals; 2) blood; 3) swine, including all by-products; 4) alcohol and 5) animals slaughtered without pronouncing the name of God on them. If food companies can avoid ingredients from these sources, halal food production is very similar to regular food production.

The following are some common food ingredients whose sources the food processor need to be aware of: food additives, amino acids; animal fat and protein; colors; dressings, sauces and seasonings; emulsifiers; enzymes; fats and oil; fat based coatings, grease and release agents; flavors and flavorings; gelatin; glycerin; hydrolyzed protein; meat and its byproducts; packaging materials; stabilizers; thickening agents; vitamins and whey protein. During the processing of halal products, it is necessary to eliminate contamination with non- halal ingredients.


What Is a Halal Certificate?

A halal certificate is a document issued by an Islamic organization, certifying that the product meets Islamic dietary guidelines, comprising of but not limited to the following:

  • The product does not contain pork or its by-products, alcohol, prohibited food ingredients of animal origin
  • The product has been prepared and manufactured on clean equipment
  • Meat and poultry components are from animals slaughtered according to Islamic Law.


Types of Halal Certificates:

  1. Site Registration Certificate: This type of certificate signifies that a production has been inspected and approved for the production of halal products. A site certificate is not a halal product certificate.
  2. Annual Halal Certificate: An Annual Halal Certificate is issued usually for a one year term when the product is manufactured in an approved facility, where all the ingredients have been approved and the product composition does not change during the period for which is the certificate is valid.
  3. Batch Certificate: A batch certificate is issued for a specific product, for a specific quantity produced on a specific day. Meat and poultry products produced on a given day receive a Batch Certificate and the manufacturer company can ship that particular batch to multiple locations.
  4. Shipment Certificate: A Shipment Certificate is issued for a specified quantity of a product or varied products, produced on different days, destined for a particular consignee.


Duration of the Certificate:

The duration for which a certificate is valid depends upon the type of product.

  1. A batch certificate issued for each consignment is valid for as long as that specific batch or lot of the product is in the market, generally up to product expiry date or “Use By” date.
  2. If a certified product is made according to a fixed formula, a certificate may be issued for a one, two or three year period. The product remains halal certified as long as it meets all the established and agreed-upon production and marketing requirements between the company and the halal certifying organization.


Who Is Authorized to Issue Halal Certificates?

The halal certification process starts with choosing an organization that meets your needs for the markets you would like to service. Just as potential entrepreneurs need to understand the principles of halal, they should be aware of the halal requirements of different countries. Any individual Muslim, Islamic organization, or agency can issue a halal certificate. However, many countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia have government-approved halal programs, whereas the predominantly food exporting countries have independent certification bodies.

If your target is a specific country, it is better to use an organization that is approved, recognized, or acceptable in that country. If your market area is broader or even global, then an organization with an international scope would better meet your needs.

As of this writing, Malaysia and Indonesia are the only countries that have a formal program to approve halal certifying organizations. Both nations have specific approved halal certifiers for their imports. Of the forty plus US halal certifying organizations only five have been approved by the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI). The Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) has just three approved of them. IFANCA is on both nation’s approval list.

When deciding on a halal certifying agency, entrepreneurs must also take the time to learn which halal certifiers best meets their needs. IFANCA’s strength, for instance, lies in its organizational model that combines the expertise of scientists and religious experts. The result is overwhelming accuracy as to what is halal and what is not. Further, the sheer variety of ingredients it has certified is unparalleled for product lines from sauces to soap, meats to flavors, colors and fragrances. Another IFANCA asset is its extensive knowledge of food industry safety standards and regulations for nations across the world. Last but not the least, IFANCA clients range from small businesses to multi-nationals.


Which Products Can Be Certified?

With the increasing complexity of ingredients and extensive use of animal by-products, any product consumed by Muslims should be certified, whether the product is consumed internally or applied to the body externally. Medicines and pharmaceutical products which are used for health reasons need not be certified; however, knowledgeable consumers look for products that are halal certified or atleast meet halal guidelines. The products that may be certified include:

  • Meat and poultry fresh, frozen and processed products
  • Meat and poultry ingredients
  • Dairy products and ingredients
  • Prepared foods and meals
  • All other packaged food products
  • Cosmetics and personal care products
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Nutritional and dietary supplements
  • Packaging materials


Halal Certification Process

Overall, the process for halal certification of the food products is not complicated.


Steps Involved in Halal Certification:

  1. Filling out an application to the organization on paper or Internet, explaining the production process, the products to be certified, regions the products will be sold/marketed in, along with specific information about the component ingredients. Most organizations review the information and set up an audit of the facility.
  2. Review of the information by the organization, especially the type of the product and its components. During the review of the ingredient information and/or the facility audit, the organization may ask you to replace any ingredients that do not meet its guidelines.
  3. Inspection and approval of the manufacturing facility. It includes review of the production equipment as well as the physical ingredients, as well as cleaning procedures, sanitation and chance of cross-contamination.
  4. For the company, it includes proper feeding and humane treatment of animals throughout raising, transporting and holding prior to slaughter.
  5. For slaughterhouse, it involves hiring trained Muslim slaughtermen, review of slaughtering areas, including restraining, method of stunning, actual slaying, pre and post slaying, handling, etc.
  6. Determining the cost and fees involved and signing of the contract. At this time, it would be advisable to negotiate the fees and have a clear understanding of the costs involved. The cost in some cases may run into thousands of US dollars per year. Generally, the company and the halal certifying agency sign a multi-year supervision agreement. Then a halal certificate may be issued for one year or for a shipment of a product.
  7. Payment of fees and expenses.
  8. Issuance of the halal certificate.
  9. Printing of Halal markings. When a product is certified Halal, a symbol is normally printed on the package to inform the consumers. For examples Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) uses the Crescent M symbol, which signifies “good for Muslims”. There are several other symbols that are being used by the halal certifying agencies, like the Arabic alphabet “ ح” “Arabic lettering for the word halal (لالح)”, or the word “Halal”. However, your product would be better accepted by the Muslim consumer if the logo is from the local halal authority or in the case of imported products signifies a reputable halal certification organization.

About the Author: Dr. Mian Riaz is Director of the Food Protein R&D Center, Texas A&M University.