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Understanding Halal Certification: What You Need to Know

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Learn all about Halal certification and its importance in the food industry.

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Introduction

A recent case in Lucknow has led to a ban on halal-certified products in Uttar Pradesh. But what exactly is halal certification? Let’s find out!

What Is Halal?

Halal is a word that comes from Arabic and is used in Islam to describe things that are allowed or permissible. It mainly refers to dietary laws for Muslims, similar to how kosher food is important to orthodox Jews.

Halal vs. Haram

In the Quran and the Hadith (Prophet Muhammad’s sayings), halal means “lawful” or “permissible,” while the opposite of halal is haram, which means “forbidden” or “unlawful.”

What Are Halal Certificates?

Halal certificates are labels that indicate a product or service is suitable for Muslims to consume. These certificates are important for food and related products, and they ensure that the items meet Islamic dietary laws. Halal certification is sought by hotels, restaurants, slaughterhouses, and manufacturing firms to cater to Muslim consumers.

It’s not just meat products that require halal certification. Even vegetarian items may contain non-halal ingredients like alcohol, so it’s important to have a halal certificate for vegetarian products as well.

Who Issues Halal Certificates in India?

Unlike some Gulf nations, India doesn’t have an official regulator for halal certification. Instead, third-party bodies like Halal India and Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust provide certification to companies, products, and food establishments. In Arab nations, a magistrate grants the Halal Certification.

Halal India’s certification is recognized by various international organizations, including the UAE’s Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development, and Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health.

How Is Halal Certification Determined?

To be considered halal, a food item must come from a halal source and be free from non-halal ingredients. For example, dishes prepared with alcohol or pork are considered haram according to Islamic dietary laws.

There are specific guidelines for determining halal animals, birds, and aquatic creatures. Halal land animals should not be predators and must have bifurcated hoofs. Predatory terrestrial animals, pigs, donkeys, and mules are considered haram. Cold-blooded animals, pests, reptiles, and amphibians are also excluded from the halal category.

In the avian realm, birds of prey with claws or talons are classified as haram. However, all fishes are considered halal.

Importantly, for an animal to be considered halal, it must undergo slaughter through the Zabiha method, which involves a precise cut to the jugular vein, carotid artery, and windpipe.

Why Is Halal Certification Important?

Halal certification ensures that products meet the dietary requirements of Muslims. It helps Muslim consumers identify which items are permissible for them to consume. Halal certification is not only limited to food products but also applies to raw materials for food processing, non-alcoholic beverages, pharmaceutical and healthcare products, cosmetics, cleaning products, and consumer goods.

While halal certification is not mandatory in India, it provides greater consumer acceptance and helps businesses cater to the needs of Muslim customers.

Criteria for Halal Certification

Islamic laws prohibit the consumption of certain things, such as carrion (dead animals) and animals that are not killed through exsanguination. Exsanguination is a method of slaughtering an animal by draining it of blood, which is consistent with Islamic principles. This method is different from the jhatka method preferred by Sikhs and Hindus, where the animal is killed instantaneously. Halal Certification is not only limited to food products, but also applies to raw materials for food processing, non-alcoholic beverages, pharmaceutical and healthcare products, cosmetics, cleaning products, and consumer goods.

Why Do Vegetarian Foods Need a Halal Certificate?

Not Just About Meat

Halal certification is not only for meat products or animal byproducts. Surprisingly, even some vegetarian items may contain non-Halal ingredients, such as alcohol.

Hidden Ingredients

Let’s take the example of L-Cysteine, an amino acid commonly found in breads and used in baking. While L-Cysteine is mostly produced through fermentation, it can also be derived from chicken feathers in France or the hydrolysis of human hair in China. That’s why even vegetarian products need a Halal Certificate.

Export Guidelines

Although India doesn’t have a specific regulator for Halal certification, the country does have guidelines for the export of halal-certified meat and its products. These guidelines were issued by the Commerce Ministry earlier this year. According to the norms, halal-certified meat must be produced, processed, and packaged in a facility authorized by a body accredited by the Quality Council of India.

In conclusion, halal certification plays a crucial role in ensuring that products align with Islamic dietary laws and meet the needs of Muslim consumers. It helps Muslims make informed choices about the food and products they consume, promoting inclusivity and cultural sensitivity.

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