HALAL IS in the news again this week. This time chicken is the target but it might just as well be lamb or anything else.
This is a boomerang story that continually seems to raise tabloid hackles. The Daily Mail, apoplectic as usual and never missing an opportunity to rewrite an old story, ran the headline MILLIONS ARE EATING HALAL FOOD WITHOUT KNOWING IT. And they weren’t alone.
Whether this occasionally hysterical reaction by editors is driven by animal welfare or a perceived consumer deception along the lines of the horsemeat scandal, or even by a ‘reds under the bed’ type religious nervousness is open to question. Irrespective, it is a story that can generate not a little misinformation in the telling. Much of the confusion revolves around stunning and is not helped by the fact that certain sections of the Muslim community disagree on what is, and is not, Halal. Most feel that stunning is acceptable; others do not.
In retail, much, if not all, Halal slaughtered meat carries a mark indicating as such on packaging. In foodservice it is of course a different matter as the product arrives, often in an unmarked box, which the consumer would never see. It is then down to the user to indicate if the creature has been slaughtered under Halal conditions should they so desire. And herein lies the problem.
The story behind Halal is both emotional and contentious and was the subject of a symposium convened by Footprint, four years ago in the light of a similar media furore. This brought together a number of key vested interests to discuss the facts and included included representation from the British Muslim Council, the Halal Food Authority, meat manufacturers and associations, RSPCA, local government and DEFRA, along with senior members of the foodservice community. You can read what happened HERE.
Little has changed, however, and we suspect that such is the diversity of the arguments that even if there is an update to labeling legislation, this is a story that will just keep coming back.