Cape Town halaal authority loses favour with Malaysia

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 27 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

The local multi-billion rand halaal market could face a shake-up after the Malaysian government delisted the Muslim Judicial Council Halaal Trust (MJCHT) this month for not meeting various criteria.

The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, also referred to as Jakim for short, told the MJCHT this month it failed an independent audit conducted last November.

Jakim said the MJCHT lacked expertise, systems and it found faults at slaughterhouses registered with the trust.

Being delisted does not mean the Cape Town-based MJCHT is unable to issue certificates to businesses that meet the requirements to sell meat products to Muslims.

Neither does it mean the MJCHT is unable to verify eateries as halaal, the Islamic term which refers to products that are permissible for Muslims to consume.

But it does mean Malaysia will not allow imports of any products the MJCHT has certified halaal until the latter meets its criteria.

MJCHT director Sheikh Achmat Sedick said they have a “window period of six to 12 months to implement the required corrective measures” before Jakim reinstates it.

“The MJCHT wish to re-iterate that Jakim’s audit and delisting are of a technical nature and that our halaal operation, halaal certification and confirmation are intact and haven’t been compromised in any way,” he added.

Jakim’s audits determine whether halaal authorities it works with meet international health and safety standards.

Sedick explained where it fell short of Jakim’s standards, the first being expertise.

“The MJCHT primarily consists of the ulama (religious leaders) and to breach the technical gaps, of which the ulama do not have expertise, the MJCHT makes use of independent technically qualified Muslim people and institutions for specialised jobs such as food technologists, biochemists, lab testing,” said Sedick.

“Jakim requires that the MJCHT have the above-mentioned expertise more directly on board.”

Sedick said Jakim wanted to see “documentary proof of qualifications and/or further training”.

Jakim also found fault with the MJCHT’s halaal certification system, said Sedick.

The MJCHT needed to show “tangible proof of implementation on all levels, example training of inspectors and monitors and audits reports”.

“The entire operation of the MJCHT must be documented in a standard operating procedure manual,” said Sedick.

The last problem area was at slaughterhouses where Jakim wanted the MJCHT to appoint a “halaal slaughter-checker”.

“(This person) needs to be positioned on the slaughter-line immediately after the last slaughterer in order to do a post-slaughtering check,” said Sedick.

“Jakim requested that all the halaal slaughterers be registered with the MJCHT with proof of training.”

Sedick said the MJCHT has “embarked on corrective action” and this included appointing a trainer for inspectors and slaughterers.

It is the second time in recent years that the MJCHT comes under fire.

In 2012 it was accused of negligence when it issued certification to Orion, a company that had allegedly labelled pork products as halaal. Muslims are forbidden to eat pork.

The MJCHT is one of various halaal certifying authorities in South Africa but the country does not have any independent and specialised halaal laboratories.

The Western Cape department of economic opportunities and agriculture said earlier this year it plans to establish a halaal industrial park.

The department said the halaal industry was estimated to be worth almost R45-billion in South Africa.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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