The time has come to discuss the essential difference between the broader concept of Halal and Halal Compliance Certification. It might sound like we are talking about one and the same thing, but there is a subtle yet significant difference between the two.
While Halal and Haram are concepts that a Muslim has to follow as per the Islamic faith guidelines, Halal Compliance Certification is essentially for the world at large and therefore also impacts the non-Muslim establishments and consumers as much as the Muslims.
While it is a fact that the non-Muslim does not have any obligatory requirement to observe the concept of Halal, Halal Compliance Certification opens the door for Sri Lankans to be part of the ever-expanding international economy opportunities especially across more than two billion Muslims in communities around the world.
Halal Compliance Certification
Halal Compliance Certification is an audit, marketing and branding exercise, which ensures a scientific approach to a previously loose cultural standard that has been observed, keeping abreast with the technological advancements and scientific developments of the current day affecting food science, manufacturing processes and various additives.
Halal Compliance certification not only keeps Muslims from eating food that is Haram (not permissible) for them; but it also has to do with our modern-day eating habits. In one way Halal compliance could be termed as the watchdog of processed and food with various additives.
And while on the subject of processed food, it is not only in Halal conceptual matters that we need to be aware, but also other aspects in respect of scrutinising what we consume. Even in a non-Muslim paradigm, we need to guard against any unwanted, undesired substances from getting into our consumption routine and damaging our health in the long term.
From a Muslim paradigm, Halal Compliance Certification is also the means of globalising foods that Muslims like to enjoy. As much as its true with our own Sri Lankan context, most parts of the world today including popular cities like London, New York, Melbourne, Sydney and Johannesburg have become multi-ethnic with different cultures practicing different traditions and eating habits in what has become an extremely diverse society.
Blending of cultures and eating traditions
With globalisation taking place, there is a certain blending of these cultures and eating traditions where one would like to try different tastes provided it meets fundamental expectations.
For example, food cultures and behaviours based on religious (or faith) factors have existed in the world from way back, i.e. vegetarian food for Hindus and Buddhists, the kosher concept for Jews and the Halal concept for Muslims. Then there are the Geographical factors in terms how different foods have become popular across the world such as Chinese food from different parts of China, Middle Eastern food, Italian food, French food, Mediterranean, Indian, Mexican and even English and American foods that we call Western food.
Most of these foods are enjoyed across the world by different ethnic groups, provided they meet the fundamental requirements stemming from these group’s faith beliefs and practices. Therefore, restaurants and food manufacturers across the world who have to target these groups if they are to make a success of their business, ensure that these requirements are met. Not only does it help to create variety in our eating habits but helps to build ethnic harmony by integrating different cultures and tastes.
Concept of consumption has changed
In the good old days people did not buy food or even ingredients to prepare food. They made their own ingredients according to their own standards and made their own food, which ensured that every home stayed within their own dietary culture.
From then to now, the world has undergone significant change; no longer do any of us belong to our own frame, we eat out at restaurants, buy food at supermarkets and take away outlets and even get all our ingredients to prepare food at home off the shelf. In fact the entire concept of consumption across the world has changed and with that change commercialisation and modern research technology has kicked in, not all of which is necessarily good for our health.
The modern world we live in has advanced technologies for almost everything from food preservation and processing to biotechnology, extrusion technology and even genetic engineering. The variety of processed food in the global market place is mind-boggling and various countries from different regions are fighting to meet that demand.
A thriving industry
In Sri Lanka too food processing has become a thriving industry, due to our rising trend for processed food as well as the changing life styles brought about by globalisation. However, along with the daily increasing demand for these food products, it also becomes crucial to set in place standards that ensure the ethical value, quality and safety of our foods that reach local as well as international markets.
These food products and other items need to carry clear markings that inform of taboos and dietary requirements of multicultural and multi religious consumers, as a basic principle in respecting consumers’ choice. Halal Compliance falls into that category; if our local food products are to reach the globally diversified communities, then Halal Compliance Certification is a standard that must be followed.