European halal: A tale of diverging standards, foreign influence and religious fraction

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Without a unified standard, halal foods are vulnerable to fraud and deception, says halal regulation expert
Without a unified standard, halal foods are vulnerable to fraud and deception, says halal regulation expert
A centralised standard for halal products in Europe is needed to combat the "really chaotic" current situation, according to a professor who has written extensively on the topic of halal regulation. 

Professor Havinga, from the Institute for the Sociology of Law at Radboud University, told FoodNavigator that halal standards in Europe are currently managed by many different initiatives that take different angles. Not only do these national and independent organisations vary on what constitutes halal, there are also inconsistencies within the religious community.

Discordant standards

At the moment all European countries have their own norms for halal, Professor Havinga explained, yet there is still no centralised organisation which sets a unified and accepted standard for halal foods in Europe.

The European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) is currently compiling a standard that companies could voluntarily adopt, and could help push for an official system of certification.

Yet Christine Van Vlierden, CEN unit manager for communication and external relations, expressed doubts about how likely this standard is due to the “additional load”​ of the religious nature of this case.

“Whether or not there will eventually be a European Standard for halal products will depend on the progress that can be achieved by the new CEN Project Committee on halal products,”​ Van Vlierden told FoodNavigator.

In a public Linkedin discussion​, Orhan Adamcil, lead auditor at Halal Feed and Food Inspection Authority (HFFIA), wrote that CEN should not develop a halal standard. "A halal standard should be kept under the guidance and protection of an independent Islamic theological scholars organization in Europe," ​he wrote. 

Mr Kaleoglu from the Turkish Standardization Institute (TSE) is technical secretariat of the CEN committee (CEN/TC 425- TSE) which includes other national standards bodies. The committee met for the first time in Turkey on September 23 this year and has not yet produced any public documents on the standard. 

Foreign influence

Van Vlierden said that CEN did not see Turkey's non-EU status as a problem in terms of external influence on European issues.

Professor Havinga told FoodNavigator that there were many international halal organisations to consider, particularly from Indonesia and Malaysia.

She said some of these organisations are linked to governments outside of Europe which could pose a problem. “We wouldn’t want foreign governments deciding what we have to do [in Europe].”

Profitable business

Within this there is the issue of profit. Havinga said that under present measures the halal market is vulnerable to fraud and deception since the more costly slaughter process tends to mean the end product prices are higher.

A lack of Europe-wide standard could allow fraudsters to charge higher prices but not actually carry out the more costly processes required to call a product halal, Havinga told FoodNavigator.

Van Vlierden said that ultimately discerning halal companies would push for a standard, and afterwards certification, since it will be in their interest to prove to consumers the halal requirements have been implemented.

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Wall Street Journal Article

Posted by Dorothy Clemmer,

There is a WSJ article titled "Jews and Muslims Unite-Over Meat," published 10-11-2013. Anyone tracking this topic would enjoy this article.

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