The halal industry is growing rapidly, but it has not reached its full potential. While there are increasing demands for halal products worldwide, there is no consensus on a global halal standard.
Halal standards are a set of rules and guidelines that are used to ensure that food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products and other items are permissible for Muslims to consume.
Halal standards have been in place for a long time across various Muslim-majority countries in which each country has their own set of halal standards, based on Islamic jurisprudence of their country (based on the one of the 4 madhabs).
The issue of halal standards is complicated by the fact that each government has its own official body charged with regulating halal products and practices. Each country has its own certification body, leading to disagreements over animal feed, slaughtering methods, packaging, logistics and other issues. Indeed, all sectors of the market from inter-government agencies to the smallest trader have recognized the need for one global halal standard that is recognized by all importing countries.
The Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC) was created in 2010 in Türkiye to establish a basis for technical cooperation in the Muslim world. SMIIC has 38 members—3 of which are observers—and this number is expected to grow considerably in the coming years. SMIIC members are all members of the OIC countries.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) consisting of 57 member countries from around the world, all of which have populations who are predominantly Muslim.
SMIIC has adopted halal standards for food, certification, and accreditation that are important milestones for a reliable halal certification system for the member states of OIC countries.
Nonetheless, UAE has established its own world body known as International Halal Accreditation Forum (IHAF) and Malaysia has established its own world body known as International Halal Authority Board (IHAB), both aim to bring harmonization to the various halal standards, established in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Both countries are members of SMIIC.
Türkiye’s Halal Accreditation Agency, known as HAK, which is under Türkiye ‘s Ministry of Trade, follows the OIC SMIIC standards for halal.
The current situation, with many halal certification bodies of each country, means that a food producer would require several different halal certifications for the same product, as each country it exports to has different halal standards and certifications.
The main purpose of OIC is to increase economic cooperation and solidarity among Muslims and SMIIC is aimed to achieve this objective by removing duplicate certification procedures, differing halal standards and other hurdles.
For exporters to Muslim markets, a single halal standard and certification means that it cuts through red tapes, saving both time and money.
Other issues like the Covid 19 Pandemic and international politics has cause disruption in the food supply chain so much so many Muslim countries are sourcing for their needs closer to home instead of across the globe. Certification is crucial for exporters to keep and maintain their access to Muslim markets.
A product that has a halal certification that is recognized and widely accepted will be a preferred choice even if it is located further than one that is located next door but is not halal certified. But there are numerous halal certificates in use now. So which one should you chose?
Halalop spoke with Korkut Yavuz, CEO of Halal Vision, based in Ankara, Türkiye about the harmonization of global halal standards.
Korkut first started his career in Türkiye’s civil service in the country’s Ministry of Trade where he was involved with the initial harmonization of halal standards in SMIIC, and was directly involved in dealing with regulations of imports and exports of agricultural produce. With his expertise in technical regulations of agricultural and food products, he later worked with the United Nations as an economic affairs adviser in the Agricultural Standards Unit, before leaving to start his own company.
“I was involved in SMIIC which established Türkiye ‘s halal standards and certification, where I was involved in doing a lot of the paperwork. Türkiye’s starting point was that, we were seeing more and more Muslim consumers demanded halal certifications, and there were many confusions over the halal certification. For example, Malaysia’s halal certification, which started in the 1970s or earlier, as they were the first. Then the Arab Gulf states have a different standard and different set of requirements, and other countries have other requirements.”
“The idea was to have, under the OIC, where all Muslim countries are represented, to have a common standard for halal. In other words, one standard where everyone can apply. That is the view that Türkiye follows. SMIIC was then established in 2010, and the first common standard was developed in 2011”.
“The OIC SMIIC halal standards were developed by halal experts from 40 countries, with experts from Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi, Kuwait, Nigeria and many other countries.”
“Despite the fact that there is only one source, the Qur’an, there are many interpretations of halal. Then there are the hadiths. Different interpretations came out in different geographical regions.”
“Right now, the current situation is that halal standards have effectively evolved into 3 blocs: the Malaysian and South-East Asian bloc, the Gulf States, and the OIC (under SMIIC). There are politics involved in it as well. However, every country has the right to regulate as they wish.”
“For example, the OIC SMIIC standards have a way to deal with the different sects of Islam deal with certain food types, as to whether they are considered halal or non-halal. Non-scaled fish are not allowed in some sects. So in the OIC SMIIC standard will still be able to issue a halal certificate will label it with ‘non-scaled fish’.”
“Certain countries or Islamic sects consider horse meat as halal to be eaten and some consider it haram. In the OIC SMIIC halal standards, horse meat is excluded from the list of halal foods in order to have a full consensus by members of SMIIC who are members of the OIC countries”, Korkut Yavuz, CEO of Halal Vision, explained.
“The Malaysian halal standards is quite popular, because they have been investing for many years, and have helped other countries to understand their halal standards. “
“There is reason to believe that many more countries in the future will adhere to the OIC SMIIC halal system. For example, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria and Pakistan have recognized or are using this halal standard.”
Korkut went on to explained Türkiye’s position, “Türkiye has recently made it mandatory for halal certifications in Türkiye to follow the SMIIC OIC halal standards. This requirement will be effective on 2 June 2023. However, it is not mandatory to have a halal certificate in Türkiye.”
“Effectively, this means that food producers with halal certifications from Malaysia or the Gulf countries can no longer market their products in Türkiye using those certifications,” Korkut explained further.
For halal food producers already in the Turkish market, or interested to export to Türkiye, these companies need to understand the OIC SMIIC halal standards and certification process. Many global food producers that export to Muslim countries already have halal certificates, with certifications from countries they export to, such as Malaysia, the Gulf States and so on.
“For food producers that export to Türkiye and want to use the halal certificates to assure their Muslim consumers, they need to align their systems to the OIC SMIIC halal standards and get certified. These companies need to understand the standard,” Korkut elaborated.
“What does the standard say? What are the rules?”
“Those who are familiar with the ISO 22000 with food safety standards, or those with the Gulf standards, then it would be easy for them because its very similar. For companies with certificates for the Malaysian halal standards, is going to be a little different than they’re used to. In the end, its not that different because its about food safety and food quality.”
“For companies to get the OIC SMIIC halal certifications, they need to set up their systems, their documentations, their internal audits, to comply with the OIC SMIIC halal standards. To comply with the OIC SMIIC halal standards is to comply with the ISO 22000 standards on food safety management systems.”
“Then there is the certification body. In order to be certified, there are certain rules that the company needs to convince the certification body that it complies with the rules. The certification body will be auditing for 2-3 days at the company’s premises.”
“For example, the company will be asked about the documentation to the food labels and to show them in practice. The company must also have an internal audit department to comply with ISO 22000 standards which is part of the OIC SMIIC halal standards.”
“Then there are also meeting the Islamic requirements that the companies need to comply with.”
Quotes from Korkut Yavuz, CEO of Halal Vision,
Halal food certification training & consulting
Halal training courses for the food industry producers who are looking to be halal certified under the OIC SMIIC standards can get halal training course online which is time efficient and cost efficient. This training is offered by Halal VIsion under an online teaching platform.
This is especially useful for food exporters to Türkiye which will make it mandatory for halal certifications to use the OIC SMIIC standards in 2023. Although some exporters may already have halal certifications from other countries, for access to the Muslim consumer market in Türkiye, using the ISO SMIIC halal certification is mandatory, as other types of halal certification will not be allowed to be used in Türkiye.
So the training is indispensable if you are eyeing the lucrative halal market.
Shahfizal Musa is the Founder and Managing Editor of Halalop. He graduated with a Law degree from Thames Valley University London. He is an award-winning journalist covering topics such as human trafficking, Muslim research discoveries, and exceptional Muslims.
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