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UP bans halal-certified products: What are they and what's the controversy?

What is halal and halal food?

Halal is an Arabic word that loosely translates to “permissible” in English.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations defines Halal Food as that which is permitted under the Islamic Law. “All lawful land animals should be slaughtered in compliance with the rules laid down in the Codex Recommended Code of Hygienic Practice for Fresh Meat,” the FAO guidelines say.

ALSO READ: Uttar Pradesh bans manufacturing, storage, distribution and sale of halal-certified products

One of the many requirement is that the slaughter act should sever the trachea, oesophagus and main arteries and veins of the neck region” of the animal.

According to The Indian Express, vegetarian food would be generally considered permissible or ‘halal’ unless it contains alcohol. Any consumable item can be deemed ‘halal’ or ‘haram’ as per the Islamic law.

The FAO guidelines also specify that “when a claim is made that a food is halal, the word halal or equivalent terms should appear on the label”.

What are halal-certified products?

A Halal certification is a guarantee that the food is prepared adhering to the Islamic law and is unadulterated.

In India, halal certification is given by many private companies which marks the food or products permissible for the followers of the Islam. Some of these halal certification bodies are recognised by the Indian government, while others do not have any recognition.

The major halal-certifying organisations in the country include Halal India Pvt Ltd and Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust, news agency PTI reported.

Is halal certification mandatory?

The Indian government neither mandates halal certification, nor does it provide a unifying regulatory law. The Food Safety and Standard Authority of India’s (FSSAI) standard certification is the requirement for consumer edible products, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

It states that Halal certification in the form of “an internationally recognized certificate” is not necessary to obtain trade permission either for exports or imports. “There are no specific labeling requirements for imports of halal food products,” the USDA said in 2022.

What’s the controversy around halal-certified products?

The controversy is centered around two aspects — one is the legality of the certificate-issuing authority and the other is the allegation of targetting people of a particular community.

On Friday, November 17, a case was registered in Lucknow against some entities for allegedly exploiting religious sentiments to boost sales by providing halal certificates to customers of a specific religion.

According to the Uttar Pradesh government, these entities included such as the Halal India Private Limited Chennai, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust Delhi, Halal Council of India Mumbai and Jamiat Ulama Maharashtra among others.

First, let’s delve into the legal aspect of halal certification:

The restriction by the Uttar Pradesh government came amid complaints against various companies issuing Halal Certification. The question is whether these companies have been issuing such certificates legally or illegally.

A few private companies, against which Lucknow police had registered a case on Friday, were accused of issuing “forged” halal certificates to various companies for financial gains.

One of the complainants, Shailesh Sharma, told ANI that there are four companies in Chennai, Mumbai, and Delhi that issue halal certificates. He alleged that none of the companies, as of now, have been recognised by the central government or any other government — to determine whether they are eligible to issue halal certificates or not.

Halal certification system

In India, various halal-certifying agencies provide companies, products or food establishments halal certification.  And, the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB) provides accreditation to these “Halal Certification Bodies” under Quality Council of India.

Taking certification from government-recognised Halal certifying bodies gives companies an advantage in not only national but international market.

As per the guidelines by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), meat and its products are allowed to be exported as ‘halal certified’ only if they are produced, processed and packaged in a facility having a valid certificate issued by a body accredited by a board of the Quality Council of India.

Earlier, there was no mandatory halal certification system in India regulated by the government as the country does not have a national regulation for the certification.

However, to streamline the certification of meat and meat products as halal from the country, a scheme titled ‘India Conformity Assessment Scheme (i-CAS)’was developed by the government, news agency PTI reported.

On April 6 this year, the DGFT notified policy conditions for halal certification process for meat and meat products. It directed the existing bodies to seek accreditation from the NABCB for i-CAS (Indian Conformity Assessment Scheme) Halal in six months.

In October, the Center had extended the time period for accreditation of halal certification bodies and registration of export units by six months till April 5, 2024.

Halal certification ‘creating confusion’

The official notification by Uttar Pradesh’s Food Safety and Drug Administration department mentioned the Halal certification of food products as a parallel system that creates confusion regarding the quality of food items and is completely against the basic intention of the Food Safety and Standards Act.

‘Exploiting religious sentiments’

The few companies, which were accused of issuing forged halal certificates, were also charged for “fostering not only social animosity but also violating public trust”. They were also accused of exploiting religious sentiments to boost sales by providing Halal certificates to customers of a specific religion.

In a statement, the Uttar Pradesh government said the complainant has raised concerns over a potential large-scale conspiracy — indicating attempts to decrease the sale of products from companies lacking the halal certificate, which is illegal.

“The issuance of halal certificates for vegetarian products like oil, soap, toothpaste, and honey, where no such certification is necessary, suggests a deliberate criminal conspiracy targeting a specific community and its products,” it said.

Moreover, the complainant alleged that, under the guise of religion, “unrestrained propaganda” is being pursued within a particular section of the society to discourage the use of products lacking a halal certificate. This, in turn, harms the business interests of other communities.

The complainant reportedly expressed concern over these individuals “amassing disproportionate profits and potentially channelling funds towards supporting terrorist organisations and anti-national endeavours,” the UP government’s statement said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Updated: 19 Nov 2023, 06:18 AM IST

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