Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How One Woman Revolutionized Halal Food in Canada

Some great ideas need just one thing: a person that is dedicated to carrying it out.
That's exactly who Salima Jivraj, the founder of Halal Foodie and the Halal Food Festival in Toronto has become. Being a part of one the largest Muslim community in Canada, Salima has used her food and marketing abilities to bring the Halal food industry, valued at over a billion dollars, to the 21st century.
Sounds like serious stuff, right? You wouldn't know it if you saw Salima and her team, who seem to be having fun with their brand.
But is it all fun and feasting? Hardly. As the plans are in motion for the only Halal Food Festival in Canada, Salima and her team have partnered up with Muslim Welfare Centre of Toronto, a service center that offers meals on wheels and has an active food bank.
Here is my interview with Miss Halal Foodie herself, who shares how she is giving back to her community with her great idea while still having fun.
What made you start Halal Foodie?
Two years ago, just after having my second child, I wanted to do something that would utilize my years in the marketing industry, give back to the community and focus on something I'm passionate about. All things pointed to halal food so after a bit of research, found a great niche that was currently not being served and decided to start a website that focused on answering the need for more information on the Toronto halal food scene. My plan is to create a central hub for halal food in Toronto first and then spread to other Canadian cities.
You are helping halal food come into the 21st century.How has social media helped with the growth of Halal Foodie?
Deciding to focus on social media was both an economical decision and strategic one as well. Social media is inexpensive but it's also a skill to execute properly. By utilizing both social media and search engine optimization I've managed to increase traffic to my site with minimal investment, a huge bonus as a mom of two who also has a full time job with very small startup capital to invest. After two years of hard work, I am finally at a stage where I can grow into what I had envisioned.
I've also been blessed with a strong and loyal following -- it's been great meeting new people with their own strong passions; something not so easy to do with other marketing channels. Learning what people want by spending a lot of time just listening has helped shaped the way I provide information to them.
My business model is based on advertising; companies want to advertise with because we are able to draw in large numbers from a very targeted demographic. Social media has helped provide statistics and proof that is a good platform for advertising to anyone that wants to speak to our audience.
How has the industry reacted to your writing and reviews?
Since day one I've had nothing but support, encouragement and shared excitement over I think people were waiting for something like this and the community has shown a lot of support. Specifically with the industry, restaurant owners tell me all the time that their business has increased and they are really grateful for the exposure. I had a call from one restaurateur recently saying that their business increased by at least 25 per cent and after four weeks is still bringing in new customers. Hearing that I could help a business that was struggling before gives me that push to keep going and it's a huge motivator for me with
How and why did you come up with the concept of the Halal Food Festival?
There are other cities around the world hosting halal food festivals that are targeted to consumers. I remember thinking to myself after seeing a YouTube video for one that took place over the summer of 2012 in New Jersey, "I wish someone would throw a festival here -- I would totally go to that!" I took some time to think of who could possibly put something together and there was really no one else I could think of that could do it the way I expected it to happen. It had to be professional and reflect the diversity of our city. Halal Food Festival Toronto also has to be interactive and cater to the Muslim demographic so introducing family friendly areas such as a Kids Zone and Baby Lounge was a must. I took the idea to my husband and he jumped on board. After that, we knew we needed more help and quickly brought on four more members who have been an integral part of the organization.
Our key members are all experts in their respected fields and we all share a passion for food and the importance of halal.
On a high level, the festival is a way to showcase what we have and inspire more growth. It also serves as way to educate people and encourage the importance of eating halal in a fun and interactive way.

How is the Halal Food Festival involved with Muslim Welfare Centre?
We really wanted to align ourselves to an organization that focused on the local community. We did some research and loved the amazing programs at Muslim Welfare Centre of Toronto. We were really impressed with their food bank, iftar baskets during Ramadan (iftar is the meal after breaking ones fast after sunset) and their halal version of "meals on wheels". They are a hands-on organization and operate right on the front lines of their programs. We are also going to discuss more ideas on how we can help them through once the festival is over as their needs spread year round and we feel it's imperative to help their cause after the festival as well.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

School canteens urged to serve halal food in recognition of Muslim population

MANILA, Philippines – How many schools serve their students “halal” food that Muslims are allowed to partake of under Islamic dietary guidelines?
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) recently raised this question as it urged the education sector to help advance the government’s peace process with Muslim secessionists by teaching students to embrace “inclusivity and diversity.”
OPAPP Assistant Secretary Jennifer Oreta said the education sector should take part in the government’s efforts to attain peace in Mindanao by “changing mind-sets, breaking symbolic and imagined barriers that divide and embracing inclusivity and diversity.”
Oreta spoke recently at a conference of educators nationwide organized by the Asia-Pacific Network for International Education and Values Education (APNIEVE) at the Miriam College.
According to a statement from the OPAPP, APNIEVE is an organization that aims to promote peace, human rights, democracy and sustainable development through values education.
In her address, Oreta emphasized the need for the education of young Filipinos to embrace multiculturalism, inclusivity and diversity.
“How much of the core message of our curriculum actually promotes inclusivity and non-discrimination?” Oreta said.
Oreta noted that teachers themselves should “reevaluate the ‘data’ being taught and the ‘language’ being used” in classrooms as these “can neither encourage or prevent discrimination and exclusivity.”
For example, she said, one uses the label “Muslim terrorist” but not “Christian terrorist.”
“Perhaps that is not the intention of the message; the subliminal message that it creates is also problematic,” Oreta said.
In promoting multi-culturalism in schools, Oreta asked the teachers: “How many of our schools actually have prayer rooms for other religions? How much of our food is halal? This is what we realize when we had some of our Muslim friends come over, they can’t eat anything at the cafeteria.”
(“Halal” is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permissible. Its opposite is “haram.”)
“So again, we talk about inclusivity. We talk about non-discrimination,” Oreta said. “Sometimes we look at them as trivial but these are actually big issues.”

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kosher and Halal Food Act would meet dietary requirements of faith groups needing disaster relief

Late last month, Rep. Joseph Crowley introduced the "Kosher and Halal Food Act of 2013," which "Amends the Emergency Food Assistance Act of 1983 to: (1) provide for the increased purchase of Kosher and Halal food if such food is cost neutral as compared to food that is not from food manufacturers with a Kosher or Halal certification, and (2) modify the labeling of the commodities list under the emergency food assistance program to enable Kosher and Halal food bank operators to identify which commodities to obtain from local food banks." The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition on May 22.
The bill follows the relief efforts during Hurricane Sandy.  William Rapfogel, Executive Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and Mohammad Razvi, Executive Director of the Council of Peoples Organization observed that "…  an estimated 330,000 Jewish households in New York City and 300,000 Muslim households in the tri-state area live in poverty. Because of the dietary requirements of their faith, many families we serve are unable to rely on the federally funded network of food pantries to feed their families. As social service providers, it is not unusual for us to see dozens of families in a single day who are going hungry because there are no Kosher and Halal options in food pantries. And since the storm, we have had to double our efforts to serve families in the hardest-hit communities while continuing to help those in need outside of Zone A."
Rapfogel and Razvi hope that the bill will decrease the number of New Yorkers going hungry in 2013 and beyond.
So far, the anti-Jew, anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists have been quiet — but as Rational Wiki points out, hysteria has erupted before over foods — like when Campbell's Soup Company test-marketed a line of halal certified products in 2010 and Tea Party types viewed the test marketing as an example of Sharia law creeping into western culture.  In the far right's unending quest to identify strange new conspiracies that supposedly threaten America, Halal foods — that is, foods that that Muslims are allowed to eat under Islamic Sharia — were identified a couple years ago by Pastor Mark Biltz at World Net Daily  as foods that are  "sacrificed to idols" which will make Americans "catch Islam like a virus."  As God Discussion's Dakota O'Leary reported, by Thanksgiving 2011 the conspiracy had grown.  Butterball was accused of "waging a secret jihad on the nation by sneaking halal turkeys on unsuspecting American tables."
Kosher foods are foods that meet dietary laws, based in the Old Testament, on what is fit for people to eat.  According to News 7 in Denver, a growing number of Americans, particularly those who have food allergies or are concerned about food processing, are seeking out Kosher foods for their quality.  Of the consumers who purchase kosher foods, only 14 percent do so for religious reasons.  But anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists complain that the kosher label is a "Jewish tax" – an allegation that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) refutes. "The bizarre claim by right wing extremists that kosher certification markings on food product labels ("kosher certification" "K," etc.) cost consumers extra money and represent, in effect, a 'kosher tax' to make rabbis rich, is a striking example of the propaganda used by anti-Semites to trick the uninformed into accepting conspiracy charges and stereotypes about Jews," the ADL writes in a piece that debunks the claim.

Friday, May 24, 2013

No action against halal firm

No action will be taken against a company accused of supplying halal burgers containing pork to schools.
Leicester City Council withdrew a lamb burger supplied to 19 schools by Doncaster firm Paragon Quality Foods last month after tests showed up to 50 per cent pork in a sample.

However, further tests on the company's products conducted at the request of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have found no trace of pork.

A spokeswoman for the FSA said: "We were notified of the findings by Leicester City Council and instructed colleagues at Doncaster Metropolitan Council to liaise with Paragon.
"We have received the report from Doncaster and are satisfied there are appropriate controls in place and no further action needs to be taken."
Peter Dale, director of regeneration and environment for Doncaster, said: "We have carried out an extensive programme of sampling and so far no traces of meat other than labelled have been detected."
Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO), in Leicester, which tested the original burger on behalf of the city council, declined to comment yesterday.
Paragon is considering legal action against Leicester City Council, saying its reputation has been "unfairly damaged".
A spokesman for the company said: "The test by ESPO wasn't a formal test under controlled conditions and all other results have come back negative for any traces of pork.
"Therefore we're seeking advice about possible legal action."
The city council was understood to be carrying out further tests on the burgers, the results of which are not yet known.
The halal burger had been available on its school menus since January.
A spokeswoman for the council said it was carrying out its own investigation and could not comment any further as this might prejudice any future legal proceedings.
Pat Heslop-Harrison, a professor of molecular cytogenetics at the University of Leicester, said the original sample could have proved positive for pork because of cross-contamination.
"It's a difficult process to get right and ideally tests would be carried out at the site prior to being taken away," he said.
"Cross-contamination can come from numerous sources and it only takes a tiny amount to create different results.
"This could be from a knife, juices dripped from packing or from the lorry used to move produce around. That's why taking further samples is always necessary.
"However, I believe the council did the right thing by removing the burger as a precautionary measure."
Regular tests on school food have been carried out on behalf of the council since February.
All other halal products used in the council's kitchens are supplied by The Punjab Kitchen Ltd. Tests have shown they are halal compliant.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Halal food production on the rise in Balkans

SARAJEVO: Trying to fight back against the persistent economic crisis in the Balkans, food producers here have turned towards halal food, targeting rising demand from markets in Western and Muslim countries.

At a recent three-day halal food fair in the Bosnian capital, the first of its kind in the Balkans, some 30 producers from the region gathered to present their goods—meat products, cheese, sweets, pastry, oils and even halal cosmetics.

“The halal market represents more than one billion people across the globe. It is a young market with an important purchasing power,” said Amel Kovacevic, one of the organizers of a halal food fair in Sarajevo.

The demand for halal products is “growing between 10 and 20 percent per year” globally, he estimated. In addition to low labour costs, he said Balkans-based companies can try to take advantage of their geographical advantage: located in the Mediterranean basin, they are near both European and Middle Eastern markets.

The Brajlovic factory, near Sarajevo, is among some 150 food producers in the Balkans which have obtained halal certificates for a total of 2,000 food products.

“Halal should not been seen as something that will immediately accelerate production and make profit grow in a day,” Asim Bajraktarevic, in charge of production in the processed meat factory, told AFP.

With its capacity to offer some 15 tonnes of products daily, the factory, which obtained a halal certificate three months ago, now aims to “improve product quality and create the conditions for growth once we enter foreign markets,” he said.

Halal, an Arab word meaning “lawful”, refers to all things and actions permitted by the Holy Qur’aan to practicing Muslims.

With regard to food, it notably concerns ensuring that approved types of meat have been slaughtered according to ritual, as well as ensuring that processed foods as well as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics do not contain any non-halal products.

Amir Sakic, head of a halal certification agency in Sarajevo, said that the number of companies getting the license for halal production in the Balkans is now growing by between 30 and 40 percent per year. The number of products they offer is also rising up to 40 percent per year, while annual sales are now estimated at around 550 million euros ($708 million), Sakic said.

The agency, in charge of the whole region, was founded in 2006 with the help of local Islamic community in Bosnia, where Muslims make up 40 percent of the country’s 3.8 million people. Few Bosnian Muslims had been following halal dietary restrictions, and until recently halal products were often not available in shops. Companies from other Balkan countries like Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, where the Muslim population is tiny, are also seeking halal certifications.

All have the same goal: to try their luck abroad, as purchasing power is low throughout the region, and has been squeezed further by Europe’s economic crisis.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Halal food dishing out radical change in society

HALAL food is now sold at a dozen McDonald's restaurants and bacon is off the menu at some KFC outlets to accommodate the religious sensitivities of Australia's growing Muslim population.
The Muslim population has soared by 40 per cent to 476,291 in just five years - paving the way for a building program of schools, mosques and prayer rooms in the suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.
Even the country's biggest sports stadiums, including ANZ Stadium and the MCG, have moved to offer multi-faith prayer rooms for devout Muslims.
A KFC spokesman yesterday said three of its restaurants, including two at Bankstown and Punchbowl, are certified to sell halal food prepared in a way that is acceptable to Muslims.
"KFC is mindful of responding to customer demand and cultural sensitivities in a balanced way," the spokesman said.
Eight McDonald's restaurants in Sydney and four in Melbourne offer halal food but, unlike some KFC outlets, they have not taken bacon off the menu.
"We are pleased to be able to offer halal menu items in restaurants where there is strong demand from the local community," media relations manager Skye Oxen ham-Lupul said.
"Our halal restaurants also provide non-halal menu items, however modified storage and food preparation procedures have been implemented to ensure that correct segregation is maintained."
Figures from the 2011 census show a long-term decline in the number of Australians who identify as Christians - down from 89 per cent in 1976 to 61 per cent in 2011.
But it is the push for official recognition of sharia law that worried many Australians who made submissions to the federal parliamentary inquiry into multiculturalism.
More than 200 submissions to the inquiry raised concerns about or discussed the question of Islam in Australia.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Paragon Foods denies halal burgers contained pork

A company accused of supplying halal food containing pork to schools in Leicester has said it is "completely innocent".
In April, Leicester City Council said a lamb burger from Paragon Quality Foods contained between 10% and 50% pork.
But the Doncaster-based firm said the sample tested by the council did not come directly from the factory.
A council spokesman said it would not comment further until the results of a second set of tests were completed.
The company said it was now considering legal action against the city council. 
The original discovery was made on 18 April and the product was withdrawn.
A DNA test found the lamb burger contained between 10% and 50% pork.
Paragon spokesman Metin Pekin said: "These allegations have upset us beyond belief. I am from a Muslim family and we have never ever entertained pork on site.
"It is paramount that we get our reputation restored.
"This initial sample was a customer test... and we did not have a retainer sample and we could not test it anywhere else."
Leicester City Council said in an earlier statement: "Because it was only one burger that was tested and the findings were so wide-ranging, we have ordered further samples of more burgers and when we have these results we will publish them."
The authority said it "hopes to be able to make a fuller statement next week".
Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO), which is responsible for testing the samples, said: "Paragon Quality Foods have challenged the test results and, on behalf of Leicester City Council, we are in the process of seeking verification and a second opinion of the test results."
The lamb burgers were served at 19 schools around Leicester but were withdrawn after the discovery was made.

Halal mark a must for all food products in UAE

Dubai: All food products claiming to be halal need to have a halal mark and certification from next year, a senior official from the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (Esma) has said.
The announcement comes as part of a halal regulations package, which will also include halal certification for cosmetics and perfumes as well as clothes and accessories.
“It is His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai’s dream to make Dubai the capital of the halal economy and this initiative is part of that project. Through this process we will make sure what people consume assuming it is halal is actually halal,” said Mohammad Saleh Badri, Director-General of Esma.
According to Badri, there is currently a system in place to verify halal compliance of food products but it has very limited scope.
Recently mandated by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to formulate halal codes for cosmetics and perfumes to be implemented in all Islamic countries, Esma hopes the halal food standards will also be adopted by other countries.
“Each emirate has its own system to verify halal compliance at municipal level but there are no general standards and regulations. We will be putting a whole new system in place which will not only be a point of reference for firms in the UAE but also for other Islamic nations,” added Badri.
Currently in the process of ratification, the standards will be in place by early next year, covering all types of food products and outlets.
“Every eatery and food brand that claims its food to be halal will come under the scanner and we will go into details of the ingredients used, the processing, the plantation, chemicals used, the packaging as well as the slaughtering of animals. Every process should comply with Sharia regulations,” said Badri, explaining the certification system.
The announcement comes following recent speculation about Western food chains not complying with halal standards, which led to the withdrawal of certain products in several countries.
“Once we have our system in place, there will be no place for speculation and scepticism. It will be clear to people what products are halal and what are not permissible. We will ban those products that don’t comply with the standards,” Badri said.
Paying attention to detail, the standards will even look into cases of food products being genetically modified or processed using chemicals or fertilizers that have traces of non-permissible products.
Having traces of pork, animals slaughtered in a non-Islamic way or the presence of alcohol in food products among other things is not allowed according to Sharia.
In the next phase, the authority will implement standards to ensure all clothing and accessories are also halal.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Leicester schools halal lamb burger contained up to 50% pork

A halal lamb burger made by a company supplying Leicester schools contained up to 50% pork, the city council has confirmed.
The products were made by Doncaster-based Paragon Quality Foods Limited, which said it had never knowingly bought or handled pork.
The discovery was made on 18 April and the product was withdrawn but details only became public on Thursday.
A DNA test found the burger contained between 10 and 50% pork.
'Criminal procedure'
A spokeswoman for Leicester City Council said: "Because it was only one burger that was tested and the findings were so wide-ranging, we have ordered further samples of more burgers and when we have these results we will publish them.
"The council's view is that whether it's 1% or 99%, it's still impure and unacceptable."
The horsemeat scandal prompted the council to test all meat served in its schools and one burger was taken as a sample.
The lamb burgers were served at 19 schools around Leicester but were withdrawn as soon as the discovery was made.
The revelation prompted outrage among parents and the city's Muslim community.
Suleman Nagdi, from the Federation of Muslim Organisations, said: "For people, this is touching at the very tenet of their faith, the very heart of their faith.
"There needs to be a criminal procedure against the company," he said. "At least it would bring some confidence into the community."
Faz Mulla, from the not-for-profit Halal Monitoring Committee, was at a meeting of imams on Thursday.
"What transpired is the total loss of confidence in the supply chain in Leicester. Imams are at a loss as to what to do about this matter," he said.
A vote was taken by the imams calling for halal meat to be taken off the menu, and for children to become vegetarian until confidence is restored.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kyrgyzstan to develop halal standards

BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan is becoming the second Central Asian country to introduce its own broader halal standards. Until recently, the Islamic Centre's Certification Committee had the sole authority to issue halal certificates in Kyrgyzstan. It issued the certification based on Malaysian standards. Conflicts arose when the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan (DUMK) started to issue its own certificates.
To resolve the conflict, Kyrgyzstan plans to issue uniform standards and to form a National Halal Association.
"We sense the full support and understanding of the state," said Myktybek haji Arstanbek, spokesman for the Eurasian Union for Halal Standardisation.

More products to fall under halal standards

The products now will be tested for halal inside the country because it has obtained the specific equipment. For example, a test will be performed on meat to detect the presence of pork. It is important for Kyrgyzstan to have its own standardisation system rather than just follow the Malaysian one, because Kyrgyzstan uses some products (horse milk, for example) that Malaysia has no standards for.
The move will also help the country expand its halal certification system. Until recently, halal certificates in Kyrgyzstan pertained only to meat products, Arstanbek said. Soon, halal standards will reach across more branches of the economy, particularly pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
For example, insulin for diabetics is one of more than 500 products sold in Kyrgyzstan that contain pork, he said, adding that the possible presence of banned ingredients in medicines puts many believers in a dilemma.
"Almost all of them have various additives that include components of pork and alcohol. … In these circumstances, how can a vendor, even if he is Muslim, guarantee the candy he's selling?" Arstanbek asked.

Protection of consumer rights

Halal certification is becoming important in Kyrgyzstan not only because more residents are turning to Islam and want to make sure they are consuming halal products but also because they in general think that halal products are being more carefully checked and are healthier.
The halal mark is gradually becoming a trademark going beyond strictly religious requirements, Kyrgyz Grand Mufti Rakhmatullah haji Egemberdiyev said.
"Unfortunately, many of our people naïvely believe that, if they buy some product with Arabic writing on it, it must mean it is halal," he said. "But this is not the case."
Kyrgyzstan has no modern laboratory that could quickly ascertain whether a product is halal. Many producers are now going to Almaty for analyses.
To protect consumers' halal rights, the local branch of the Eurasian Union for Halal Standardisation has acquired special testing equipment to determine the extent of a given product's halal standards.
Furthermore, it is going to request certificates from foreign producers of food products and necessities.

Economic benefits

Although halal standards are of a religious nature, the authorities are aware that their development can also help the economy.
"We will help the development of this standard in every way, because the halal industry today is one of the most promising industries ... of many countries," Berdimamat Adanbayev, chief of the Technical Regulations Department within the Economy and Anti-Monopoly Ministry, said.
In the long term, Kyrgyzstan could become an exporter of halal products, observers say.
"We could offer high-quality products for the meat and food-processing industries," Deputy Foreign Minister Askar Beshimov said. "Arab businessmen take halal certification very seriously, and they quite often back out ... when they learn that most of our goods lack halal certificates."

Poland bids to overturn ban on kosher‚ halal meat exports

WARSAW: For some, it was a barbaric way to treat animals. For others, it was great business.

Until January, slaughterhouses across Poland — a deeply Catholic nation — were the unlikely venues for the Islamic and Jewish slaughter of animals, which in both religions involves a swift cut to the throat of a conscious animal and death by bleeding.

Millions of euros were being made exporting the halal and kosher meat to countries like Egypt, Iran and Israel, as well as to Muslim and Jewish markets inside Europe.

In a victory for a growing animal rights movement, activists succeeded in getting a ban on such religious slaughter. But with economic decline deepening and exports seen as a possible salvation, the government faces pressure to get the practice reinstated legally — and is scrambling to do so.

Though Poland's own cuisine is heavy in pork, a meat banned by Jewish and Islamic laws, the country has cut out this niche business for itself in one example of the economic savvy Poland has shown since joining the European Union in 2004. Kosher and halal meat exports have grown between 20 and 30 percent per year in recent years as the largely agricultural country has capitalized on its low labor costs and a reputation for healthy farm animals.

"God gave us good food, good soil and good farm animals, and he gave the Muslim countries what they have under the surface — black gold," said Mufti Tomasz Miskiewicz, the top Muslim leader in Poland. "There are nations with big populations — like Egypt, the Arab countries, Indonesia — that need this food and don't have enough cattle to produce enough meat themselves."

The business has been overseen and encouraged by Poland's Jewish and Muslim communities, minorities that are very small but with a presence going back many centuries. Polish Jews once made up the world's largest Jewish population; though nearly wiped out in the Holocaust, the community is growing. Tatars, a Muslim people, also settled here centuries ago, and have been joined recently by Arab diplomats, businessmen and students.

The kosher and halal business had boomed until January, when the ban took effect following a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal. Though the actual slaughter was carried out by specially trained Muslim and Jewish officials, the industry also created thousands of supporting jobs for others.

Animal rights activists argue that killing animals without stunning them first causes unnecessary suffering to the animals. Jewish and Muslim leaders strongly disagree, and insist that their method is actually more humane, in part became it causes the animals to lose consciousness very fast. They argue that standard industrial slaughter involves pre-stunning that is sometimes not effective, leading to even greater suffering.

Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, says Jewish tradition has always been concerned with the welfare of animals, noting, for instance, that it bans hunting and any senseless suffering.

"For close to 3,000 years, Jewish slaughter practices have been followed that minimize pain to the animal," Schudrich said.

Polish meat industry officials are hesitant to take sides on which slaughter method causes more suffering, with their focus firmly on economics.

The pro-market government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk is also eager to get the business going again and has recently drafted a law that would reinstate religious slaughter while also adding some new protections for animals.

The law's fate now rests with parliament, which is due to debate and vote on it in the coming weeks. It is expected to pass since the government enjoys majority support in the assembly, but probably not without some heated debate. Lawmakers are under pressure from all sides, including from an animal rights movement that has grown stronger as the ex-communist country grows increasingly Westernized.

In the meantime, industry leaders warn that millions of euros and thousands of jobs could be lost if Poland doesn't re-legalize religious slaughter soon.

"Banning ritual slaughter was a cardinal mistake with huge consequences," said Witold Choinski, the head of Polskie Mieso, or Polish Meat, an organization that represents the interests of meat producers.

Choinski said there are no official figures on the financial losses so far, but the number is high: the industry is worth about 500 million euros ($650 million) per year to the Polish economy and it has been largely frozen for nearly half a year. About 100,000 tons of kosher or halal beef and 100,000 tons of poultry were exported annually before the ban — making up between 20 and 30 percent of Poland's beef exports and about 10 percent of poultry exports, Choinski said.

He says there is currently no production at all of the religiously slaughtered meat, though Miskiewicz and others say there is some small-scale production taking place in a legal gray zone.

Many of the Polish meat facilities which handle kosher and halal meat — usually in addition to traditional slaughter — have had to limit their overall production because of the ban, while major contracts with traders from the Middle East have been suspended, Choinski said.

Poland had been close to sealing major long-term contracts with Saudi Arabia, but these were abandoned because of the unclear legal situation. Meanwhile, many Polish companies that produce halal and kosher meat are on the verge of bankruptcy, and up to 6,000 workers could lose their jobs, he said.

"Poland can't afford this. Most meat production facilities are in small places without other places for people to work and this is dooming the economic prospects of people," he said. "But I think there will be a resolution because no government can allow 6,000 people to get laid off during an economic crisis."

For now, business is being picked up by producers in nearby countries, including Latvia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, Miskiewicz said.

Bosnia is also working hard to position itself as an exporter of halal products. The country opened its first halal fair Wednesday in Sarajevo, welcoming representatives of the Islamic world to take a look at Bosnian products. Erdal Trhulj, Bosnia's regional industry minister, said the halal industry is growing worldwide, and that his country "aims to become a hub for halal industry in this part of Europe."

The debate surrounding the issue has lacked any overt anti-Jewish or anti-Islamic tones, though religious rights are also pressing concern for the minorities and a government that wants to maintain good ties with them.

Miskiewicz says there is a degree of unfairness in banning Jewish and Islamic slaughter when so many Polish Catholics follow a similar practice themselves at Christmas, when carp are slaughtered in homes across the nation without any pre-stunning.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Leicester MP wants inquiry into halal food pork find

MP Keith Vaz has called for a full inquiry following the discovery that a halal lamb burger made by a company supplying schools contained up to 50 per cent pork.
The Leicester East MP said: "I am deeply concerned by the reports meat presented as being halal contained pork and was served in city schools
The only right and proper response is any meat due to be served as halal is tested first.
"We need a full inquiry to establish how the companies concerned have been issued halal certificates and to make sure other public services serving halal food are not similarly affected. "
The city council said last week that the halal burger, supplied by Paragon Quality Foods, of Doncaster, had been removed from 19 school menus.
The firm has said it has never knowingly bought or handled pork, but a DNA test carried out on behalf of the city council found the burger contained between 10 and 50 per cent pork.
The burgers had been on Leicester school menus since January and are the only product supplied to the council by the Yorkshire firm.
All other halal products used in council kitchens are supplied by The Punjab Kitchen, of Tyneside.
Tests have shown it is halal compliant.
Further tests on other burger samples are being carried out. Results are expected this week.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Halal meat withdrawn from 18 schools in Luton

Halal meat has been taken off the menu at 18 schools in Luton after concerns were raised by Muslim groups.

Luton Borough Council, which has served the meat in schools for 15 years, said it had suspended the service while it looked into how the meat was certified.

The decision followed a meeting with Luton Council of Mosques and Sunni Council of Mosques.

A council spokesperson said it did not relate to the "safety of the food or whether it has been contaminated".
Children at the schools affected by the decision, which was made at the end of April, are being served vegetarian meals while the checks are being made.

"Our suppliers have provided us with certificates to show that the meat complies with requirements to be designated as halal," the council spokesperson said.
"The issue focuses on the interpretation of how halal meat is certified "We are therefore seeking clarification from the certification body."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Halal Market Potential swells to $1.3trillion

Halal export market offers $ 1.3 billion potential and EPZA should submit a detailed proposal, on priority basis for establishment of halal export processing zones in Pakistan. It is ironic to note that most of halal product demand is fulfilled by non-Muslim countries, whereas Muslim countries have a meager share in this very fast growing market. The demand of halal products in the western countries is mainly fulfilled by USA, Brazil, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and France. As far as the eastern countries are concerned, Thailand is the biggest supplier of halal certified products followed by Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and India. This was stated by Shahzada Ahsan Ashraf Shaikh, Federal Minister, Industries & Production during his meeting with Chairman Export Processing Zones Authority, Mr. Saadat S. Cheema in Ministry of Industries and Production in Islamabad.
Mr. Saadat S. Cheema, said that a large number of Non-Muslim consumers world over also prefer halal products due to reasons of cleanliness, hygiene and purity as quality assurance is considered a prime issue in those societies. Pakistan’s biggest competitive advantage in the region is the availability of an entire Halal production base coming from a Muslim country which has a direct access to a large base of halal consumers in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Investors in Pakistan also need to recognize the fact that Halal market is not only constrained to food items. This segment includes products like Cosmetics, Pharmaceuticals, Leather Goods and Islamic Financial Services. Food only forms 2% of the Halal market.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Nestle Malaysia ready to help local players tap global halal market

KUALALUMPUR: Nestle Malaysia, the biggest halal food producer in the Nestlé Group, is sharing its expertise with local players to help the country become a global halal hub.
The company said it will continue to expand its manufacturing capabilities and increase the existing capacity for halal products to tap new opportunities. It is also committed to on-going investments in research and development, capacity building, consumer insights and communication.

“As Malaysia aspires to be a global halal hub, Nestlé Malaysia is voluntarily sharing its expertise and global networking with the relevant halal authorities — from sourcing to distribution.

“This sharing of knowledge includes working with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the local food industry on halal standards and collaborating with the relevant government agencies and non-govermental organisation, as well as local universities, to provide industrial exposure to halal and industry-related syariah programmes,” Nestle Malaysia said in a statement.
Nestle Malaysia exports halal products to more than 50 countries while providing expertise, resources and technical support to other Nestlé markets around the world. 
The company is also supporting the growth of SMEs in the country by sharing with them its knowledge and expertise in the local food industry.

This is to add value and raise their standards so as to enable them to compete in the global market and win consumers’ confidence in locally manufactured products, it said.

Nestle Malaysia has shared valuable insights on halal certification with food manufacturers who are interested in penetrating the global halal food market, which has grown exponentially over the past decade.The halal food market now serves an international market worth about US$600 billion (RM1.83 trillion).

Nestle’s compliance to halal procedures and certification encompasses sourcing and purchasing raw materials and ingredients right up to production level.

“Various systems and certifications are in place for food safety assurance,” it said, adding that strict compliance to food standards and regulations are practised, all of which are prerequisites for halal certification.

The company’s manufacturing capacity has also been expanding, in line with market needs. Its production and export of halal products have increased following encouraging demand globally.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Michigan's Muslim inmates being denied halal meals, lawsuit claims

A federal lawsuit was filed today against the Michigan Department of Corrections, alleging several Muslim inmates aren’t getting enough “nutritional” food during the month-long fast of Ramadan and are being forced to eat foods that violate their religious beliefs.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, the state’s “Ramadan Bagged Meal” contains about 1,100-1,400 calories, which is roughly less than half the amount of calories that the other inmates get on any given day. Under state prison policy, all inmate meals total 2,600 to 2,900 calories a day.
The lawsuit, filed by the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), is challenging a policy that it claims requires Muslim inmates to sacrifice an adequate diet when they participate in the Ramadan fast. The suit also challenges a policy that prevents Muslims from maintaining a religiously-mandated —or halal — diet. Halal is a term used to designate food seen as permissible according to Islamic teachings. Under the halal food diet, pork and pork-based food products are forbidden, an addition to all meat that is not slaughtered and prepared in accordance with Islamic law.
The lawsuit claims that the MDOC has refused to provide Muslim inmates with a halal diet, “despite repeated requests.” As a result, Muslim inmates have been forced to “violate their sincerely-held religious beliefs by eating foods that violate the restrictions of the halal food diet,” according to the lawsuit.
CAIR-MI is seeking a court order enjoining the department from denying Muslim inmates an adequate diet during the upcoming month of Ramadan, which is scheduled to start July 9.
“The Michigan Department of Corrections’ Ramadan policy is discriminatory and subjects Muslim inmates participating in the Ramadan fast to cruel and unusual punishment by denying them a proper nutritional and caloric diet on a daily basis,” CAIR-MI Staff Attorney Lena Masri said in a statement.
John Cordell, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown by, among other things, abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and having sexual relations. Ramadan is considered among the Five Pillars of Islam and is recognized by Muslims worldwide.