As we roll ahead into 2003, a number of challenges await us in the horizon, all waiting to be addressed. In a series of editorials, eat-halal.com’s editor sheds some light on these issues. This is the second in the series.
Editorial by: Editor www.eat-halal.com
Alhamdulillah, more Muslims than ever before are taking a keen interest in matters pertaining to the concept of Halal and Haram in foods. The genuine effort by many Muslims to eat Halal is evident by the huge number of e-mails we receive from Muslims. Food manufacturers are beginning to hear the concerns of Muslims and their awareness of Halal and Haram is also slowly increasing.
We advise Muslims to thoroughly check the ingredients of products before buying them. We try to research all products we are asked to look into by contacting the respective manufacturers. But despite all these efforts, the fact of the matter remains that we cannot be sure that the foods we are eating are 100% Halal.
This however, does not mean that we stop trying our best to ensure that the foods we eat are in fact Halal. We must try to research whatever we can about the foods in question, but at the same time, we must begin pressuring manufacturers to obtain Halal certification. There are organizations that are promoting Halal to the food industry. Many companies around the world are obtaining Halal certification. Canadian companies are increasingly coming on board. However, most of the Canadian products that are certified Halal are done so for export purposes. Muslim countries such as Malaysia and other Middle Eastern countries require that a Halal certificate accompany all imported food products.
If we are to progress in having Halal certified products, we the Muslim consumers need to start contacting the food industry and tell them of our desire to see Halal certified products in our local supermarkets. If we don’t let them know of our dire need, what incentive would they have to act? Why would a company obtain Halal certification for its products if there is no demand?
Approximately 700 000 Muslims live in Canada; close to 300 000 in the Greater Toronto Area, and about 120 000 in the Montreal area. There are approximately 9 million Muslims in the United States, and the worldwide Muslim population is over 1.4 billion. According to USA Today (June 25, 1999), the US Muslim population will be 12.2 million in 2018. The buying power of US Muslim food consumers is estimated to be over $12 billion, and world Halal food trade averages close to $150 billion per year.
The numbers are quite impressive, but how many voices out there are really asking for Halal certification?
Some people are probably wondering, “why so much emphasis on Halal certification?” I must make it clear: the method of ensuring that we eat Halal that we are currently applying is not perfect. In fact, it’s far from it. When we call and inquire about whether or not a product contains any animal-derived ingredients and/or alcohol, we only get an answer that befits the question. We don’t know if:
- Any of the ingredients have gone through a process that contains Haram or unlawful ingredients or if they have come into contact with them.
- The products are made on the same production line as other Haram products.
- Any utensils or machines used in the production are contaminated with Haram ingredients or not.
- The information is current and how long it will be valid for.
- The person who is giving out the information is sure about it or not.
It is virtually impossible to gather all this information and satisfactorily answer all these questions merely over the phone or by writing a few letters.
Halal certification programs usually cover all these areas and are often backed up by signed declarations and legally-binding contracts.
Yes, Halal certification may slightly increase the prices of the certified products, but isn’t a Halal guarantee for the foods we enjoy worth a few extra pennies?
I think it is. I hope you do too. So let’s get together and let the food industry know that we really want to see Halal certified products in our supermarkets.
Concerns, ideas, and suggestions can all be sent directly to the eat-halal.com’s editor at firstname.lastname@example.org