Schaumburg, Illinois, played host to an illustrious group of people that play a critical role in the quality and production of the halal food you eat.

The 17th International Halal Food Conference attracted speakers and attendees from as far away as Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Indonesia for three days of presentations and discussions on the challenges and opportunities in the global halal food trade: an enormous enterprise with a total annual turnover of over $1.3 trillion! That’s right, trillion dollars!

In 13 separate sessions spread over the three days, 37 different speakers addressed topics ranging from halal standards and regulations to specific ingredients like gelatin, enzymes, and residual alcohol. Squeezed in between were sessions on the Islamic perspective on animal welfare and the consumption of insects as well as an appreciation banquet that allowed community members to mingle with the industry representatives.

In the standards and regulations sessions, the Indonesian, Pakistani, GSO, and SMIIC standards were discussed. The effort to consolidate into one standard is ongoing and, though slow, progress is being made. Industry would like to see one global standard to facilitate the easy exchange of goods while regulators need to ensure their local needs are satisfied. Consumers have not exercised much of a voice on the subject, relying on their country regulators to enforce the regulations. Halal-certifying bodies have set their own standards or chosen to follow the importing country standard as appropriate. The need for a global accrediting body was a recurring theme expressed by the industry.

On the critical ingredients discussed, the short supply of halal gelatin is limiting the production of halal-certified nutritional supplements as well as some processed foods. Enzyme suppliers can meet any halal standard, but they would like a global standard so their products will be acceptable anywhere in the world. And when it comes to residual alcohol, regulators would like to have a zero tolerance level while industry explains that, though achievable, it will compromise flavor. As a result, most importing countries allow a small amount of residual alcohol from non-khamr (intoxicant) sources to remain in halal-certified products.

All in all, the conference made for lively discussions, and attendees expressed their satisfaction with the very informative sessions.

We take this opportunity to salute the Companies of the Year: Amway’s Nutrilite division and DSM. Both companies earned the award for providing Outstanding Service to the Global Halal Food Industry and Customers. Nutrilite is the world’s number one selling vitamin and dietary supplements brand and they produce over 70 IFANCA halal-certified products. DSM is a global science-based company active in health, nutrition, and materials providing innovative solutions to nourish, protect, and improve performance in global markets. Congratulations Nutrilite and DSM; you are a model that others can emulate!

For the first time, we presented the Crescent-M award to Dr. Edison J. Geromel of the Coca-Cola Company and Dr. Thomas Vollmuth of Wrigley, a Subsidiary of Mars, Inc. in appreciation of their Long Time Support to Halal. Their dedication and contributions to serving halal consumers is much appreciated. Congratulations gentlemen and thank you! We thank our sponsors: Nutrilite, the Coca-Cola Company, Abbott, Pepsico, DSM, Maple Lodge Farms, Organic Valley, Advanced Food Products LLC, Baskin Robbins, Cargill, Firmenich, Schreiber, Thunder Ridge Beef Company, and Wrigley. We thank our speakers and panelists from around the world. Your insight and experiences help us all improve the halal offering. And we thank the attendees who also came from around the world and contributed their thoughts, questions, and experiences. Together you all contributed to the success of the conference. Your thanks and praise inspire us to continuously improve the conference experience.