Halaal trust aims to fix loopholes

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halaal label handout The label has the MJC halaal stamp, but the ingredients mention pork casing

Cape Town - The Muslim Judicial Council Halaal Trust says it is implementing the recommendations of a review panel which found their halaal certification process was fraught with loopholes.

However, last week, halaal sausages were found to be mislabelled at Canal Walk Pick n Pay, where the council has a permanent supervisor.

Imraahn Ismail-Mukaddam, the Western Cape co-ordinator of the national consumer forum, said there should be one body which regulated halaal certification. There are seven across the country, all with their own certification versions.

He said the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) should not rely on automatic labelling machines, but instead halaal stickers should be placed on meat goods separately. He had recently dealt with a similar case involve another major retailer.

“This happens because the MJC’s labelling system is questionable,” Ismail-Mukaddam said.

Last week, Canal Walk Pick n Pay customers noticed the list of ingredients on the sausages, labelled with a halaal sticker, said their casing was made of pork.

Pick n Pay’s general manager Jarett van Vuuren said the Canal Walk store butchery was halaal and under permanent supervision of the MJC.

“No pork casing is ordered or received at the store, and we ensure that only sheep casing which is halaal-approved is used,” Van Vuuren said.

The MJC’s acting director Achmat Sedick said the issue had been resolved - the wrong code had been punched into the sticker machine.

“No pork casings were used, it was a labelling mistake,” Sedick said.

Mukaddam has since asked that the retailer send the sausages bought by a customer, to a laboratory to make sure the casings were not made of pork.

The Independent Halaal Review Panel was established to review the organisation’s halaal certification processes after the scandal involving client Orion Cold Storage, which was accused of relabelling pork products as halaal.

The panel found the MJC’s certification process fraught with problems - the most glaring being under-trained and ill-informed inspectors. The organisation also did not have a comprehensive manual.

The review panel said that while the MJC Halaal Trust had a number of substantive measures in place, there was room for improvement.

Sedick said they had immediately started implementing the panel’s recommendations.

Inspectors were being trained, more staff were being employed and processes were put in place to prevent similar errors.

Mukaddam, who had a falling out with the MJC last year, said the review panel had not addressed the Orion issue, consumers were not part of their panel and the consumer’s voice had not been heard.

However, he commended the MJC for allowing the review and opening their books.

The panel had found that the MJC was overly reliant on revenue from halaal certification and this Mukaddam said was not acceptable.

“It [the MJC] can’t be the regulator selling a halaal label and when it comes to enforcement you have to consider the financial implications to the organisation,” Mukaddam said.

[email protected]

Cape Argus

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