By Sakini Mohd Said Bernama
NARITA (Bernama) – For Malaysians taking the long haul flight to the ‘Land of The Rising Sun,’ there are always concerns over whether the food served inflight is ‘halal’ or not.
However, Iskandar Ezzahuddin Ahmad Zulkiflee, Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) Vice President of Commercial Products, has now reassured all Japan-bound Muslim passengers to have no worries or doubts about the meals served onboard as the food is definitely ‘halal’.
COLLABORATION WITH TFK CORPORATION
“In Kuala Lumpur, the food served on the MAS flights is prepared by Brahim’s Airline Catering Sdn Bhd as well as other inflight caterers for other destinations,” he told Bernama.
He explained that MAS has a collaboration with the TFK Corporation in Japan to provide inflight meals, an arrangement that has been going on for 12 years.
The collaboration came about after TFK Corporation obtained the ‘Halal certificate’ in food preparation standards from the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).
However, there still persisted doubts since all workers of the company were non-Muslims.
However, when the media entourage flown by the MAS to Narita during a familiarization trip witnessed the TFK Corporation’s food preparation operations, all these doubts were laid to rest.
Though some thought the meals are prepared in the same kitchen that also caters to inflight meals for other airlines, that was not the case.
As per the provisions of the halal certificate issued by Jakim, the TFK Corporation has a completely different section to prepare meals for the MAS. So much so that the entrance to the section itself is emblazoned with the ‘halal’ in big Roman letters.
All cooking utensils, including the pots and pans carry, a coloured sign that indicates that these are to be used ‘only for halal food preparation.’
Explained MAS’ Executive Sous Chef, Abdul Razak Rejab, “Not a single cooking utensil from the halal kitchen is used in preparing non-halal food. In fact, these utensils are not allowed to leave the halal section of the kitchen at all.
“There are also separate chillers to store the food,” said Abdul Razak who has been with the MAS since 2008.
He is tasked with finalizing the menu for MAS’ flights to Japan as well as monitoring the halal food preparation by the TFK Corporation.
HALAL FOOD MATERIALS
Abdul Razak said the MAS attaches special importance to keeping an eye on the ingredients, especially the cooking oil and the artificial flavours, since there are certain food materials and additives that contain alcohol and non-halal fats.
Everything has to be as per Jakim’s standards and stipulations, he says, adding that some airlines do not serve meals that contain pork but the food is not prepared using halal procedures and the meals may contain non-halal substances.
Hygiene is of utmost importance in TFK Corporation’s halal kitchen.
Anyone entering this kitchen is required to wear the laboratory overalls while even their footwear have to be covered with a blue-coloured plastic cover.
Using hand sanitizer is a must before washing both the hands and drying these with the help of a blower.
This is to ensure that the individuals do not carry any bacteria or other microorganisms into the kitchen.
In order to ensure that the TFK Corporation adheres to all the requirements of preparing halal food, MAS carries out an audit every year, said Abdul Razak. This audit is done by accredited officers.
He said the MAS officers involved in auditing were given appropriate training by Jakim and Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC).
“In the MAS, there is a division that focuses on aspects of halal food and other related issues and monitors each of the stations where we have collaborations with the food caterers,” explained Abdul Razak.
He said the auditing is not only limited to the kitchen but the officers also visit the abattoirs to ascertain whether the livestock is slaughtered according to Jakim’s standards and requirements.
He said Muslim passengers need not have any qualms about the food served on board MAS flights as everything that airlines offer is halal.