The local multibillion-rand halaal market could face a shake-up after the Malaysian government delisted the Muslim Judicial Council Halaal Trust (MJCHT) for not meeting various criteria.
The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, referred to as Jakim for short, told the MJCHT earlier this month it had failed an independent audit conducted in November.
Jakim’s audits determine whether halaal authorities meet international health and safety standards.
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 products the MJCHT has certified halaal until the trust meets its criteria.
MJCHT director Sheikh Achmat Sedick said they had a “window period of six to 12 months to implement the required corrective measures”.
“The MJCHT wishes to reiterate Jakim’s audit and delisting are of a technical nature and our halaal operation, halaal certification and confirmation are intact and haven’t been compromised in any way,” he added.
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 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 had “embarked on corrective action” and this included appointing a trainer for inspectors and slaughterers.
It is the second time in recent years the MJCHT has come under fire.
In 2012 it was accused of negligence when it issued certification to Orion, a company that 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 plans to establish a halaal industrial park. According to the department, the halaal industry is worth almost R45-billion in South Africa.