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Letter of the Muslim Consumers to the Codex: the 44th Session of the CCFL on the use of the term “Halal”

  • by WMCO
  • 13 October 2017
  • 0 Comments


Paris, September 27, 2017

To:

Executive Committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission

Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems

Codex Committee on Food Labelling

Codex Alimentarius Commission

Viale delle Terme di Caracalla

00153 Rome, Italy

Subject: The 44th Session of the CCFL on the use of the term “Halal”

Dear Sir,

During the 43rd Session of Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL) from 9 to 13 May, 2016, the Committee dealt with the revision of the general guidelines for the use of the term “Halal”. The Codex Committee noted that “Codex does not have the competency to interpret religious texts” and “the proposal on its revision raised a question on how to deal with consumer preference claims in a broader way”. The Committee concluded that “The Committee agreed not to proceed with the revision as proposed and agreed that the Delegations of Iran and Turkey would prepare a discussion paper on the issues surrounding consumer preference claims (within the context of the CCFL mandate) for consideration at the next session.”

We would like to thank the Codex Committee for its interest in considering claims that might impact Muslim consumers. In fact, Article1-3 of the UN charter states that one purpose of the UN is “to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, … character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion;”. Then Article 55 (Chapter IX: International economic and social co-operation) specifies that “the United Nations shall promote: … c. universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”. Thus, we, as representative of Muslim consumers, hope that Codex would kindly provide stronger directives to ensure the protection of Muslim consumers in the halal market. In fact for decades, some companies have falsely labeled haram products as halal to the strong detriment of Muslim consumers.

Among these haram products, are foods without any certification, with self-certification (by abattoirs or producers and even sometimes by the seller), or certified without actual control or on the base of standards that have been developed without sufficient involvement of the Muslim community to make them credible, or certified by non-Muslim owned agencies like the two big groups SGS and Bureau Veritas. Also, most Muslim owned halal certification bodies are self-regulating without sufficient input from of the local representatives of Muslim religious institutions. In particular the following three cases are indicative of the lack of respect for the religious rights of Muslim consumers on the local and international scene in the field of halal foods:

The Belgium Case: The BECI (The Brussel Entreprises Commerce and Industry), with its advisor, Mr. Bruno Bernard, had proposed halal certification services from March 2010 to August 2015 to companies wishing to export to the Muslim countries. A company could be audited, before that an Algerian Imam, M. Nasreddin Askrani, visits it to check that the producing process complies with the religious standards. If the Imam, who certified on behalf of his mosque, the El Waia Mosque in Constantine, Algeria, approves, then the company obtains a halal certificate for one year (see attached file page 1). Mr. Bernard was presented by the BECI as an expert on international commerce, the advisor in charge of the European halal certification for the BECI, and the author of the book “Comprendre le Halal” (To Understand the Halal). In an interviewwith the DHnet.be, he claimed that he only requests fees of 1.500€ to 2.000€. He also stated that an anonymous Muslim Halal Certification Body (HCB) was not happy with their low fees as this other Muslim HCB requests 20.000€ so that “it sends 15.000€ to Afghanistan in order to defend the cause”. In August 2015, it was discovered that, thanks to aTV report the Imam, who cannot speak French or English, was not known by the Muslim religious authorities in Constantine and that the El Waia mosque does not exist. After that, the BECI distanced itself from Mr. Bernard and ended its halal certification activities. On the halal certificates issued by BECI, there was also the stamp of the company Balticalliance SIA that is represented by Mr. Bernard and has its head office in Riga in Latvia. The company was liquidatedon May 13rd, 2015.

The French Case: In a press release on September 22nd, 2017, the French Muslim stakeholders that have removed themselves from the AFNOR mirror committee within the CEN “halal foods” project, wrote “Devoid of any religious competence or legitimacy, AFNOR (The French Association for Normalization) acted in contradiction with the Republican principles and the rules of the French normative system, to take advantage of some privileges of the halal market” (see attached file). In fact, after the disbanding of the CEN technical committee in February, 2016, AFNOR created a halal commission on November 4th, 2016, without Muslim members and without obtaining the required consensus of the Muslim stakeholders (e.g., the representatives of the worship community, the certification bodies, the associations of consumers and the manufacturers) which stated their firm opposition to the work on halal by a secular body such as AFNOR in France or CEN, in Europe. Then on September 15th, 2017 AFNOR announced the publication of its preliminary halal norms: “Guide for good manufacturing practices based on HACCP principles for halal processed food”. And it claimed that representatives of the Muslim worship community were member of its halal commission. This claim caused concern in the French Muslim community. The French Muslim minority, in particular the CFCM (The French Council of the Muslim Worship) and the three mosques that AFNOR claimed participated, denounced the interference with Muslim religious issues. They further indicated that the declarations of AFNOR that operates under the laic State authorization are deceitful, and told that they did not want their names associated with the AFNOR “halal” norms.

Also, please note that the AFNOR “Halal” Guide was drafted by six experts that represent secular bodies. Among whom, as the president of the commission was Mrs. Eldjida Makhloufi, who represents the FICT (Federation of the Delicatessen Industry) whose main raw material is pork meat; and a representative of the poultry group DOUX. This same group has been accused by French Muslim consumers of for decades providing haram poultry to the Muslim pilgrims coming to the Haj in Mecca (i.e., birds that were killed by water-bath electric stunning followed by mechanical slaughter at high speed: 15000 birds/hour)) It has been report (2005) (page 31) by both the French Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Agriculture that the DOUX group created its own halal certifier, i.e., AFCAI.

The Qibla Food Control and SGS Case: (Germany, UK, Austria and Netherland) The SGS certification group is using the standards of the HCG (Halal Certification Germany) and HAC (Halal Authority Board UK) to provide halal certificates and enable companies to export to Muslim countries or to sell their products to the Muslim minorities in Europe. The HCG standards are those of the Qibla Food Control System. As of July 1st, 2016, all rights to use the Qibla Food System have been transferred to the HCG. Before that date, SGS used the Qibla Food Control System, whose standard and trademarks belong to the non-Muslim owned company RoWi Fleischwarenvertrieb GmbHand that is also the owner of the supposedly Halal brand Aladin. The HCG is identified as a subsidiary of Halal Quality Control (HQC, Netherland) and is headed by the representative of the HQC in Germany, M. Ibrahim Salama. Also Richard Rosher, Managing Director of RoWi contributed as advisor to the development of the ONR (Austria Satndards) standard that onset the CEN process to develop secular halal standards with the help of the Austrian halal control body IIDZ (now IIDC). In fact, the head of the IIDZ was the president of the committee that developed the ONR “halal” standards that were rejected by European Muslims for a number of reasons, including religious reasons.

As you can see, the basic procedure is always the same: the names of individual Muslims or institutions are used in an opaque way to purport claims of the halal quality of haram products. These highlight the failure of the current legal framework for halal production and trade to protect the Muslim community. We request that you first kindly check our claims both in this and our last letter to you with regard to halal standardization and halal control of the production and the products’ traceability, to confirm our claims.

Also, please note that there is a need to specify in your different guidelines that:

- Halal is a religious quality and its production must only be done under the supervision of Muslim religious authorities and institutions of each country

- The Codex guidelines for halal cannot be used by producers without the supervision of religiously recognized authorities and institutions.

- Any halal production without the supervision of Muslim religiously recognized authorities and Muslim competent bodies need to be considered as a deceptive practice.

- Governments are encouraged to support the developed of a broadly-based Muslim accreditation system that does not do certification. The emphasis should be on evaluating the certifying agencies to be sure they publicly say what they do and do what they say. This will strengthen the whole halal certification system both within a country and for export.

- The governments are encouraged to make it easier for their locally recognized Muslim worship institutions to be involved in the accreditation system to ensure halal standards for local and export of halal products.

Best regards

WMCO

Copy:
M. Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Othman Bin Mustapha, Director General of JAKIM

M. Sirajuddin Suhaimee, Director, Halal Hub Division, JAKIM

Prof. Dr. Abdesalam Dawood El-Abadi, General Secretary, IIFA

Dr. Abdulqahir Qamar, Director of the Fatwa Department, IIFA

Mr Abdul Razak Hassan Maricar, Chief Executive, Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura

M. Murad Khathawut, President, Center Islamic Council of Thailand

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