CAIRO - Calls are going for Muslim countries to create a global standard for the halal food industry to help clear confusions over conflicting religious rulings and boost the already booming sector.
"Halal is a very sensitive issue that Muslims should deal with," Haluk Dag, secretary general of the Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC) in Turkey, told the Emirati daily The National.
"We must have a technical committee to deal with halal food issues, especially with new technologies in place such as mechanical slaughtering and genetically-modified organisms."
Dag was speaking during a lecture on halal standards at the Halal Congress Middle East, which took place alongside the Halal Food Middle East exhibition in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, this week.
With a growing demand for halal products, common mistakes made by different certification bodies have also popped up.
"Most halal certification bodies do not have scientific and Shari`ah committees," said Dr Hani Mansour Al Mazeedi, a research scientist at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research.
"The two committees are needed to work hand in hand to understand new technologies, to solve emerging religious issues linked with new technologies, to understand the chemical nature of raw materials and to provide procedures to switch haram production lines to halal ones."
He said in the West, many halal meat certifying bodies were "ignorant" about halal processed food requirements, such as processed cheese in hamburgers.
"They are not sincere in selecting their halal slaughter operator," he said.
"I have personally witnessed a halal slaughter man in France who does not utter the Tasmiyah" a prayer required when slaughtering an animal.
The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
Food experts have called for more inspections of halal premises to guarantee its quality.
"A single halal standard will ultimately harmonies exports and imports and ease market access to several regions," said Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, the Expo Center's director-general in Sharjah.
Countries are starting to take the necessary steps in order to achieve that.
"For centuries, we needed a common language which defined quality and safety in our daily lives, especially when it comes to trade," said Dr Mohammed Hussain Shojaee, the director of Faroogh Life Sciences Research in Iran.
"And until we resolve this part, we won't be able to move forward."
Experts said Gulf countries have also discussed making it mandatory for all imported meat to carry a halal stamp.
"Different halal authorities follow different Islamic rulings," said Dag.
"There must be a common platform where all the parties come together and argue on the specific issues to define the minimum requirements of halal standards."
He said those regulations must be applied regionally, then globally.
"The journey from science to standard is sometimes very complicated," Dr Shojaee said.
"But Muslims are entitled to halal food that is wholesome and safe."
Halal food is consumed not only by 1.5 billion Muslims around the world, but also by at least 500 million non-Muslims.Along with halal food, other goods and services can also be certified as halal, including cosmetics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and financial services.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net