A recent article by the Globe and Mail addressed concerns raised by Canada’s Muslim community regarding a new “Halal law” requiring companies that label their meat as “Halal” to identify the certification agency behind them. The author, Ann Hui, notes that the law does not address whether the certification body enforces the proper, if any, standards.
As a Halal certifier that’s been in the business for over 20 years, I have witnessed the goings on of some dishonesty in the business. Some processors and certifiers label products “Halal” without enforcing standards on the producer. Labelling alone cannot make a product authentically Halal. It is a step in the right direction to require producers of Halal goods to utilize a certifying body, but it is more crucial that producers implement procedures ensuring their procedures follow the halal rules and apply Halal standards.
The question then might be, “What are these standards and who decides them?”. It may be impractical to have a single set of Halal standards that all Muslim authorities around the world can agree on. Because of the disagreements around what’s right or wrong, those in the Halal industry have begun forming associations amongst themselves, creating their own unified standards. HTO’s standards follow those set by the World Halal Food Council, fatwas issued by the International Fiqh Council, and guidelines set by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as other entities.
It is crucial that halal certifiers apply certain standards that don’t violate the tenants of Islamic laws and make sure that they have enough manpower to implement those standards in slaughterhouses and processing plants.
Proper food labelling is the responsibility of the food manufacturer, distributors, and retailers in addition to the Halal certifier. USDA and CFIA rules do not dictate Halal procedures because of the laws regarding separation of church and state. However, these government entities can enforce the Halal labelling laws under the pretext of “truth in labelling”.
President of Halal Transactions of Omaha