Friday, October 31, 2014
What's the big fuss about Halal certification?
Increased trade with the Middle East and South East Asia means Halal certification is a booming business in Australia.
The sector is projected to be worth $1.6 trillion worldwide by 2050, and Australian food exporters are racing to get into the market.
I think Australia is quite proud of its ability to produce Halal meat to international requirements, while doing it in a humane way.
JON CONDON, JOURNALIST
Halal food has been prepared according to Islamic law, and is free from pork products, alcohol and certain other ingredients. A variety of Islamic groups are involved in Halal certification, with companies who wish their products to carry a Halal label paying fees for inspection and certification.
According to beef industry journalist Jon Condon, Halal certification is widespread in Australia and can be a big money earner for meat processors.
'What it means is when the various body parts are divided up it gives those export meat works the flexibility to sell certain items, including meat cuts and offal, into Halal markets.'
'In some cases, it can be the highest paying markets, so it's all part of finding the optimum market for each individual item.'
Mr Condon says Australia has a good reputation in terms of its ability to meet Halal requirements.
'We are able to sell Halal certified products into the Middle East, South East Asia and other communities around the world.'
'I think Australia is quite proud of its ability to produce Halal meat to international requirements, while doing it in a humane way.'
This certification process has angered a small number of consumers, however. Kirralie Smith is the founder of Halal Choices and does not support Halal labelling. Ms Smith and other anti-Halal activists claim certification fees are being directed to mosques which aim to impose Sharia law in Australia. She says her objections are not about racism, however.
'There are companies wanting to make a lot of money out of it,' says Ms Smith.
'A lot of these companies are just paying the certification because they don't want the hassle.'
Dr Muhammad Khan, the CEO of Halal Australia, says there is nothing wrong with money from Halal certification going to mosques.
'It is absolutely not necessary to talk about this subject matter,' he says.
'Don't [Kosher certification organizations] fund their own synagogues? Why can't the Islamic certification body give donations to mosque projects?'
Mr Khan says accusations of secrecy are misguided, and the Halal certification process is helping the Australian economy grow.
The Byron Bay Cookie Company, which has been certified Halal for 10 years, recently became the target of anti-Halal campaigners, who objected to the company's Anzac biscuits carrying the Halal label.
'It hasn't been easy, we've had a lot of calls and emails that have been quite aggressive where we have had to ask the police to step in,' the company's CEO, Keith Byrne, told ABC News.
'We as an iconic brand have been targeted but ultimately if people look at any major producer will typically have Halal depending on the countries they supply too.'
Like meat processors who say Halal is no different to certification for grain-fed and grass-fed cattle, Mr Byrne compares Halal to gluten-free labelling.
'The Halal company that certifies us is based in Sydney, they come and they audit us and then they go away again, they don't bless our foods, they don't bless our site, there's no religious context to it, they check our hygiene and they check that there's no alcohol there.'
What is Halal?
Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. In reference to food, it is the dietary standard, as prescribed in the Koran.
By official definition, Halal foods are those that are:
1. Free from any component that Muslims are prohibited from consuming according to Islamic law.
2. Processed, made, produced, manufactured and/or stored using utensils, equipment and/or machinery that have been cleansed according to Islamic law.
All foods are considered Halal except the following:
-Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
-Non-Halal animal fat
-Enzymes (microbial enzymes are permissible)
-Gelatin from non-Halal source (fish gelatin is Halal)
-L-cysteine (if from human hair)
-Lipase (only animal lipase need be avoided)
-Non-Halal animal shortening
-Unspecified meat broth
-Rennet (All forms should be avoided except for plant, microbial and synthetic rennet, as well as rennet obtained from Halal slaughtered animals)
-Stock (mixed species broth or meat stock)
-Tallow (non-Halal species)
-Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and certain other animals
-Foods contaminated with any of the above products