Home » New Organization To Sort Out Rotten Apples In European Halal Food Market

New Organization To Sort Out Rotten Apples In European Halal Food Market

News From : DagangHalal.com (03 Oct 2009)

A projected umbrella organization to be dubbed the European Association of Halal Certifiers is expected to bring order and unity to the halal food sector in Europe, appealing to hundreds of thousands of consumers, yet operating without any halal supervision mechanism.

A number of certifiers of halal food (goods prepared in accordance with Islamic law) from Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey decided last week to lay the foundation for a single association to set the market in order and curb unfair competition. The establishment of the association will be officially announced in a signing ceremony in Belgium on Feb. 24, 2010 with the participation of all parties involved.

Following a global trend in the certification of halal foods, a number of groups in Europe, mostly in countries with relatively higher Muslim populations, have started to give halal certification to some producers. Producers and dealers, seeing the potential for increased demand for halal products, have lined up to receive halal certification.

“However, a critical problem underlying the issue is that these certifiers lack information about the requirements of halal certification, and they are cheating Muslim consumers with ‘unauthorized’ certificates,” Huseyin Buyukozer, chairman of the Food Auditing and Certification Research Association (GİMDES), the first body to issue halal certificates in Turkey, told Sunday’s Zaman. Evaluating the present preparations for a pan-European certification association, Buyukozer asserted that the establishment of such an association would be a milestone in that it would mark the end of an unfair and incorrect application of standards in the market as well as of an abuse of consumer rights. He said GİMDES was one of the certifiers supporting the issue. Underlining that there are certain conditions firms must meet to obtain halal certification, he said halal certification is a long process and a very sensitive issue. “The certifiers have to make sure the entire production process in a company is in line with Islamic rules, following a series of inspections. However, some unauthorized certifiers are issuing halal certificates without even seeing the face of the owner of the production facility. This is not how it should be.” He said this also causes unfair competition and discourages other certifier institutions who exert extra effort to ensure halal standards.

Consumer support essential for association’s success

The new association will hopefully fill this gap, Buyukozer said, also emphasizing that they will need the support of consumers to this end. “People have remained indifferent to the issue for years; everyone should be well informed and claim their rights. Consumers’ health should be valued above all other things.”

“From our meetings with consumers in different European countries, we have found that people are complaining about the unauthorized certifiers. Having experienced similar misuses in the past, most Muslim consumers do not trust the halal labels on products and expect to see order in the market,” the GİMDES head pointed out, as he underlined that his organization has detected some 30 certifiers in the Netherlands and another 13 in Germany which issue “fake halal certificates.” Buyukozer was harsh in his criticism as he noted such certifications were nothing but an insult to consumers. “This opportunism has reached worrisome levels and should be stopped,” he said. Another major problem, he emphasized, is that some certifiers sell certificates for excessive prices. There are companies who must procure their halal certificates for 5,000 to 10,000 euros. This is high and way above normal costs.”

The GİMDES head noted that normalization could take some time to have an effect in the European halal sector and they will also need the support of governments. “Perhaps the key factor to the success of the new association will be support from governments. If they would take necessary measures to force certifiers to operate in line with the rules defined by the European Association of Halal Certifiers, then we will see a faster transformation for the better in the market,” Buyukozer said.

He stressed that the success of the association will also be for the benefit of the economies of the countries involved, since they will have a chance to rejuvenate their domestic markets and diversify their trade base. “Once a healthy halal certification system is established in Europe, more consumers will look for halal labels, and this will boost demand more than anticipated,” he explained.

Single voice in global markets is ultimate goal

Gaining importance in the global markets in recent years, the popularity of the concept of halal products has increased in many countries. South Africa, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Singapore and Thailand have already adopted their own halal standards and have quickly discovered the potential in the halal product sector; the global halal sector is worth an estimated $2 trillion in trade. Certifiers worldwide are looking to establish a single voice, with a global umbrella institution that will supervise all halal certifiers. Currently the largest such institution is the World Halal Council, established in Thailand, which oversees some 41 halal certification agencies from various countries.

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