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The Halal certification in the food industry

To understand the meaning and implications of the Halal certification, it is important to understand the concept of Halal.

This is a concept that covers the set of practices that are allowed by the Muslim religion and, although this term encompasses all kinds of practices, it is commonly associated with food that is acceptable according to Sharia (or Islamic law) being beneficial and healthy practices for people that provide less health risks and an improvement in the quality of life.

As we have just commented, today’s Muslims understand the term Halal as a lifestyle, a global and integral concept that influences and affects everyday issues such as food, hygiene, health, economics, fashion, trade and tourism. However, the use of the word Halal varies significantly between different Islamic communities.

In Muslim countries, the term is used to describe any practice permissible by Islamic law, having a more limited meaning to the literal, translated as “permissible”. This includes everything related to behaviour, language, clothing, manners and dietary laws.

However, in countries where Arabic is not spoken, the term is in most cases reduced to Islamic food laws, especially in terms of meat and poultry, although it is also used in more general terms.

This concept of Halal has a great similarity with the Hebrew term Kosher.

All that is prohibited,  harmful or abusive, are considered Haram, and according to the Islamic norm we can emphasise:

  • The meat of an animal that was found dead.
  • The blood of an animal.
  • Pork and wild boar, as well as their derivatives.
  • Animals sacrificed without the invocation of the name of God.
  • Carnivorous animals and scavengers, as well as birds with claws.
  • Alcohol, alcoholic beverages, harmful or poisonous substances and toxic plants or drinks.
  • Ingredients from animals or Haram products, such as pork gelatin.
  • Additives, preservatives, colourings, flavourings, etc., produced from Haram ingredients.
  • Interest, usury and abusive speculation.
  • Gambling.

Halal in the food industry

In general terms and in accordance with the above, to consider food Halal, it is necessary that it conforms to the Islamic law in the Koran, the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (SWS), and the teachings of Islamic lawyers . This implies that foods are fit to be consumed and are completly safe. In relation to the sector of the food industry, these are some of the most important conditions:

  • The product must be free of any prohibited substance or ingredient.
  • It must be a product made by using the appropriate utensils and machinery, which also cannot have been in contact with a prohibited substance or product during the process of making the product, nor during its production, processing, storage and transportation.
  • The animals that are allowed have to be slaughtered without unnecessary suffering and fulfilling the conditions that are stipulated.
  • Usually, fish are considered Halal.
  • Halal preservatives, colourants, flavourings or additives are allowed.
  • In animal feed, the feed must be of vegetable origin.

In relation to food labeling requirements, some additional requirements are established:

  • When a declaration is made that the food is Halal, the word Halal or other equivalent terms shall appear on the label.
  • In accordance with the Draft Revised Codex General Guidelines on Claims, Halal claims should not be used in a way that could give rise to doubts about the safety of other similar foods, or in declarations of properties that suggest that Halal foods are nutritionally superior or healthier than other foods.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission admits that there may be slight differences of opinion in the interpretation of what are licit and illicit animals and of manners of slaughter according to the different Islamic schools of thought. Therefore, these general guidelines are subject to interpretation by the competent authorities of importing countries. However, certificates issued by the religious authorities of the exporting country must be accepted in principle by the importing country, unless the latter justifies other specific requirements.

Halal Certification

It is the document issued by the Muslim authority of the exporting country in which it is certified that a certain agri-food or pharmaceutical product fulfills the requirements demanded by the Islamic Law for its consumption by the Muslim population.

The Halal Institute is one of the bodies that manage the Halal certification, and to obtain such certification it is necessary to meet the following requirements:

  • Not to include or contain in its composition anything that is considered unlawful under Islamic law.
  • Food must be prepared, processed, transported or stored using appliances or media that are exempt from what is unlawful under Islamic law.
  • Not having been in direct contact with other foods that do not meet the above requirements.

The procedure for obtaining certification includes the carrying out of company audits, through the documentary evaluation of the quality and production systems of the companies, by means of the evaluation of tests of samples taken at the factory and of the final products. At the same time, the personnel involved in the various stages of production are evaluated, such as slaughterers, cutting, processing, distribution, etc.

The certification process at the Halal Institute consists of the following phases:

  • Application for certification.
  • Review of documentation.
  • Audit phase 1 certification (correction of critical findings).
  • Audit phase 2 certification (correction of critical findings).
  • Evaluation and opinion.
  • Initial certification issue.
  • Annual renovation audit.
  • Annual Certification Issuance.

The conditions of certification require:

  • Comply with the Regulation of Use of the MGHJI.
  • Compliance by the company with mandatory declarations of production and sales of Halal products in form and frequency required by EGCH. S.L.
  • Comply with the training requirements.
  • Comply with the requirements of the Halal Warranty Mark of Islamic Board.