If there’s one thing that Muslims will get behind, it’s food and whether it is halal or haram. Muslims are very sensitive when it comes to food and the majority want to know and feel secure that the food they are eating is halal. With all the meat scandal that’s been erupting in the UK and food being cross-contaminated with horse meat or pork, the focus has also spread to halal foods.

How are halal foods processed? How clean are the factories and tools used? Is chicken stunned or not? Is there any contamination with haram meats like pork? Who is regulating the halal food chain? Which regulator should be trusted? These are all big questions to which we deserve answers.

Below I’ve given some information about the two most prominent halal food regulatory bodies in the UK – HMC and HFA. Of the two, HMC is the safest for Muslim.

Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC)

The HMC takes the traditional, and therefore the most Islamic, position of slaughtering animals. That is that it should be done by a Muslim, that the Name of Allah should be pronounced at the time of slaughter and that the slaughter should be done in accordance with Qur’an and Sunnah. HMC do not approve of stunned chickens as the stunning does cause some chickens (not all) to die before slaughter takes place. I would recommend that Muslims are ‘safe’ when eating HMC Approved meat. The following is taken from HMC’s website:

The following describes some of the key criteria for Halal adopted by HMC:

Animal is alive and healthy prior to slaughter (also correct species of animal)
Mandatory recitation of Tasmiyah by a Muslim slaughter man (blessing) on each animal
Swift and humane incision rendering the the animal insensible to pain (hand slaughter)
Compliance check ensuring 3 of the 4 main vessels are cut
In addition, all meat is labeled and sealed (where appropriate) and checks for cross contamination are made. HMC will not operate at plants where pork is handled.

There are many causes which have contributed to Halal products being falsely labelled. Some of these include:

Slaughter men at abattoirs not reciting the Tasmiyah (a mandatory condition for Halal) or using of taped recitation of the Tasmiyah
Controversial use of mechanical slaughter and rotating blades (often severing necks and missing frontal cuts)
Stunning of animals that bring into question whether the animal was alive at the point of slaughter
Mixing of meats including use of pork in Halal products or cross contamination with non-Halal meats
Incorrect incisions and insufficient vessels being cut.to meet Halal criteria.
Halal Food Authority (HFA)

The HFA seems to be the regulator of choice when it comes to non-Muslim food companies looking for approval and allows the stunning of animals and the use of machines to slaughter (even though the HFA accepts that stunning is frowned upon in shariah in its HFA Brief Guidelines for slaughtering). The HFA seems to pander towards these large organizations (eg. KFC, Freemans, Nandos) and so I can only assume that the HFA takes a more lenient approach and there’s most likely a lot of money involved. Islamic rules and laws are not to be twisted to suit the person/organisation and this seems to be HFA’s attitude towards the issue of halal food. Take for example, the following cases, which have emerged into the media:

The HFA approves of KFC ‘halal’ meat. KFC uses machines to slaughter animals and also stuns its chickens – the only resemblance to the Islamic method of slaughtering is that a Muslim is present to pronounce the name of Allah. The HFA says this is ok.

HFA-approved supplier is found to contain traces of pork in halal meat. Yet another exposure to the poor standards by the HFA.

Pork traces found in halal food for prisoners. Yet another one of the HFA’s food producers, McColgans Quality Foods Ltd (of Ireland), is found to have traces of pork in halal meat – the HFA has since de-listed this producer from its certification.

The HFA also approves of many non-Muslim food companies – as a Muslim, are you happy to have your ‘halal’ food coming from a non-Muslim source? I’m not. These HFA approved companies include the following slaughterhouses – none of which are Muslim!:

Crown Chicken (non-Muslim)
Dunbia (non-Muslim)
Frank Bird Poultry (non-Muslim)
Hilton Food Group (non-Muslim)
Jack Brand Ltd (non-Muslim)
H R Jasper & Son (non-Muslim)
Randall Parker Foods (non-Muslim)
Romford Halal Meat (non-Muslim)
RWM Dorset Ltd (non-Muslim)
Salisbury Poultry (non-Muslim)
Sandwell Foods (non-Muslim)
TC Meats Ltd (non-Muslim)
Welsh Country Foods Ltd (non-Muslim)
There is always doubt by Muslims when it comes to KFC and Nandos (which is not certified by either HMC or HFA) – the Ummah is split and there is uncertainty. This in itself is not good and points to ‘doubtful’ methods that are being used. It is also interesting that the doubt always seems to arise with HFA approved companies. This link to Exposing the HFA is also interesting background to the people who run HFA.

The HFA’s starting point has been verifying whether or not the methods used by the large companies are acceptable and this approach makes the HFA open to making allowances for these companies – not a great approach. The HFA should have its starting point as being what is the ruling according to Islamic law and for all food companies to fall within this standard and not to make allowances to companies (unless there are allowances explicitly stated in shariah).

With all the scandal over horsemeat contamination and pork traces being found in halal meat, can you seriously afford to allow yourself to eat food supplied by non-Muslims, whose standards are clearly not meeting ours?

NOTE: Nandos is supplied by Freemans of Newent, non-Muslim producer. Freemans of Newent uses stunned chicken which is then supplied to Nandos. This article in the Guardian explains Freemans method and also shows that to do slaughter according to the traditional Islamic way would be a financial cost that suppliers like Freemans aren’t willing to bear. Also, HMC inspected Freemans of Newent and declared their meat to be haram, as disclosed in this article.

By: Shaykh Asif of Halal or Haram Team

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