Selling halal food under unified global halal standards would help halal food suppliers and consumers, experts say.
Nisham Mohideen, sales director at UAE-based packaged food producer Al Islami Foods, said that unified halal standards would help food suppliers cut down on paper work as they will need one halal certification and allow consumers to be certain that the food they are purchasing is completely halal. “The biggest advantage is the ease of doing business. The companies in the food business would know that they have to follow one standard. To the consumer, it means safeguarding their interests and making sure everything is Sharia compliant,” Mohideen said at the OIC Halal Middle East exhibition that kicked off at Expo Centre Sharjah on Tuesday, GNews reported.
Meanwhile, Mohanad Gassem, section head of the purchase department at Sharjah Cooperative Society, said that unified halal standards would make it easier for retailers to choose the halal products to put on their shelves.
Islam requires Muslims to consume halal food, which basically do not contain alcohol or pork. Stunning an animal before slaughter is viewed by some scholars as not complying with Sharia, making the food non-halal. According to Mohideen, stunning is allowed in the UAE.
The lack of unified halal standards has raised production costs for food and beverage firms as they have to follow different national regulatory standards.
There are between 500 and 3,000 certification agencies globally, 80 per cent of them in non-Muslim countries, said Sebnem Sen, head of tradeflow at the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre.
The market to process, produce and distribute halal food and drinks is expected to grow into a $1.6 trillion (Dh5.8 trillion) industry by 2018 from about $1 trillion in 2012, according to DinarStandard, a research firm specialising in Muslim markets.
A growing Muslim population makes the halal food market lucrative. The Muslim population is expected to grow from 1.8 billion today to 2.2 billion by 2030, according to a statement from Expo Centre Sharjah, the exhibition’s organizer.
Halal standards made headlines last year when chocolate maker Cadbury recalled two products in Malaysia after traces of pig DNA were found. This prompted authorities in different countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, to test Cadbury chocolate bars to make sure they complied with Islamic standards.
The three-day exhibition has attracted over 125 exhibitors from countries including the UAE, Malaysia, China, Morocco, Algeria and the Netherlands, among others.