By ZÉNA BUTT, HFF
THE halal meat industry has had a mammoth amount of media coverage in the last week or so.
Following The Sun’s front page article on the ‘Halal Secret of Pizza Express’ (May 7, 2014), a snowball effect has occurred and issues pertaining to whether halal slaughter is humane and whether all religiously slaughtered meat (as well as stunned and non-stunned meat) should be clearly labelled.
Like other certification bodies in the UK and internationally, we at the Halal Food Authority (HFA) accept the use of stunning rendering the animal insensible to pain before slaughter – under no circumstance do we accept stunning to kill as this would deem the animal non-halal.
Our halal integrity is of the utmost importance to us but we are also heavily concerned with animal welfare. A common misconception the UK public has is all halal meat is un-stunned; this could not be further from the truth.
The RSPCA estimates that 88 per cent of animals killed for halal meat are stunned before slaughter and if the core issue at hand is whether the meat people are unknowingly consuming has been slaughtered in an inhumane or cruel manner – this statistic should rid people of their angst towards halal meat and halal meat derived products.
Currently, the government is of the opinion that the labelling of halal and kosher meat and products is a good idea but the onus for this has been placed upon retailers – the HFA do not agree with this.
If the responsibility is directly with the retailer themselves to label products halal, an undeniable increase in the self-certification of halal products will be observed.
Muslims make up 4.8 per cent of the UK population but they eat a disproportionate amount of lamb – we account for 20 per cent of all the lamb consumed in England; due to the vast Muslim consumer market there is a want and need for more halal products and as a direct result, more consumer choice.
If it is the responsibility of the retailer to label a product halal as has been suggested by the government, said retailer needs to understand that there are numerous issues that need to be taken into account, checked, monitored and regulated.
Though the meat maybe from a halal source, has the entire production process been halal approved? Is the said product free of all non-halal additives and E-numbers? Is it free of nonhalal oils and fats?
Are the emulsifiers that have been used 100 per cent sourced from halal slaughtered animals? If yeast has been used in the finished product – was it autolysed or brewer’s yeast? If cheese has been used in a product, is animal rennet or pepsin used in the cheese production?
When the processed foods are transported, are suitable transportation methods put in place to stop halal products from being contaminated by non-halal items?
These are just a few of the questions that need to be considered to ensure a product is 100 per cent halal and consumers cannot guarantee that a product is halal if it has not been accredited by an independent, reputable certification body that vigorously check every single ingredient.
Zéna Butt is information officer for the Halal Food Foundation