By: Ayub Khan
The growing Muslim population in North America has opened up a variety of opportunities in businesses that can or have the potential to cater to Muslim needs. More specifically, the Halal food industry is attracting considerable attention from both small businesses as well as major corporations. Realizing the tremendous profit potential, everyone seems eager to join the “Halal” bandwagon.
When The Detroit Free Press reported on July 17th that McDonald’s is offering Halal McNuggets in two of its stores in Dearborn, Michigan, there was much rejoicing in the Muslim community. Naïve Muslims across North America hoped that soon a McDonald’s near their home would also offer the so-called “Halal McNuggets.” Indeed, McDonalds is already on its way towards the fruition of these hopes. It has since expanded its Halal products to a third store and is now also offering “Halal” chicken patties.
While this is welcome move on part of McDonald’s, it needs to answer several questions, if it wants to satisfy its Muslim customers. How is the slaughtering process done? Who is the Halal certifying agency? What kinds of ingredients are used? Etc. These are some of the questions for which Muslims expect honest answers.
Earlier attempts to contact the manager and the Muslim assistant manager at the participating stores proved to be unsuccessful. Store supervisor Maurene Smith when contacted said that she will call back with the information but never did. McDonald’s corporate headquarters referred us to their regional office that in turn forwarded our questions to their public relations firm, Hermanoff & Associates. When we asked them about the slaughtering process, Ms.Sandra A.Eggers of Hermanoff Associates replied: “The chicken used in the nuggets came from one of McDonald’s approved suppliers who provided us with a Halal certificate. On this certificate, the individual who slaughtered the chicken attests that he is a Muslim and that he slaughtered the poultry “in accordance with the rites and methods of the Islamic law.” For example, this individual stated that he first made Woodhu, faced The Mecca and said the specified prayer.”
Despite our repeated requests McDonald’s did not reveal the name of the organization, which certifies the McNuggets as “Halal.” When our investigative associates visited the McDonald’s store in Dearborn they were shown a “Halal Certificate” issued by one Mr.Nidhal Al saadi of Gadsden, Alabama. The certificate states that the poultry has been slaughtered according to the “rites and methods of the Islamic law,” at the Cagle Foods factory in Camilla, Georgia. On this certificate there is no mention whatsoever of McDonald’s.
When contacted Mr.Al Saadi informed us that the chickens are slaughtered mechanically. This form of slaughter in its current practice is not considered to be in accordance with Islamic laws by a majority of Islamic scholars and the Muslim community in North America. When asked as to how many chickens he slaughters in one shift, Mr.Al Saadi was unable to provide any answer. Why McDonald’s, a multi-national corporation with billions of dollars in its coffers chose to rely on a single person for the very sensitive issue of Halal slaughter is not known. Additionally, Mr.Al Saadi only certifies the slaughter of the chicken. What about the whole processed product (McNuggets or Chicken Patties) itself? What kinds of ingredients are
used in it? Are these ingredients Halal certified? On what basis McDonald’s claims it to be Halal?
When one of the cashiers at the store was asked about the Halal status of the French fries, he replied that they are Halal. By now it is well known that McDonald’s fries contain non-Zabiha beef fat and hence are not halal. It is surprising that a McDonald’s employee doesn’t know anything about it.
Furthermore, we have learned that the participating stores sell both Halal products as well as non-Halal at the same store. How do they keep them separate? Do they fry Halal and non-Halal products in the same oil?
These are some of the questions that McDonald’s needs to answer honestly if it wants to maintain its Muslim customer base and expand on it. Otherwise these so called “Halal” products along with the already tarnished reputation of McDonalds, which is still trying to recover from the beef fat in the fries case, will remain suspect in Muslim eyes. Muslims will not allow anyone to take them for a ride anymore.
What is troubling to find is that McDonalds, a corporation which is very meticulous about even the most intricate details in the production of its every single product chose to be so lax when it come to “Halal.” It’s earlier reluctance to reveal the name of the Halal certifier raises even more suspicions.
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