Over the past week, two Australian companies, The Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company and Byron Cookie Company, have been bullied into withdrawing their Halal certification on dairy products and biscuits respectively.
It is a minority of people who have been complaining about these companies’ products being halal certified. If we look at their arguments they boil down to the following:
1) It takes away my right to eat normal food.
2) They are in Australia after all, Halal is not part of our culture.
Curious people may be wondering what all the fuss is about. We’re here to demystify what halal is and why Australian companies produce halal-certified food.
What is halal?
Halal is the Arabic word for ‘permissible’. Anything considered halal by Muslims is an action, item or saying they are permitted to take part in.
In terms of food, everything is halal/permissible unless there is evidence from Islamic religious texts to say otherwise. Vegetables are permissible (halal) to eat and any product found in the sea, fish or mammal or muscle, are permissible to consume also. The grey area for permissible food is applied to animals on land and alcohol based products. Simply, the halal stamp gives consumers peace of mind when shopping.
To find out more, you can watch this video to see the humane and ethical treatment that is part of the halal meat process.
Why would companies certify products halal?
The world is filled with a variety of people, with a variety of dietary requirements. And with Australia being a multicultural country based on values of equal rights and opportunity, and giving people a fair go, it is natural to then have many of those food variants available to the Australian consumer market.
Many products with the halal stamp are in fact products void of any animal products or by-products. This is the case for yoghurt, milk, vegemite or biscuits products. Previously consumers would have seen them as vegetarian products. This is part of a trend to replace animal rennet or gelatin with vegetable by-products due to health concerns around the fat and sugar content levels in too many products in the market.
The products which have found their companies under attack by a minority of Australian consumers are in fact targeting products void of animal products. Keith Bryne, Chief Operating Officer for Byron Cookies Company clearly states:
“The Halal company that certifies us is based in Sydney, they come and they audit us and then they go away again, they don’t ‘bless’ our foods, they don’t ‘bless’ our site, there’s no religious context to it, they check our hygiene and they check that there’s no alcohol there.”
Here Keith Bryne makes it clear that no animal by-products or meat are actually used in their biscuits. The halal certification they have is to extend to their customers a sense of trust, which every brand needs, by using a community trusted company to grant the certification.
So really, what’s all the fuss about?
Companies like Four’N Twenty, Mrs. Macs, Vegemite and Cadbury have halal certification for many of their products. It is a shame that bullies and boycotters with misinformation have caused Australian companies to take a step back from a successful, value inclusive and profiting business scheme of halal certification.
Companies like The Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company, Byron Cookie Company and others have had to cancel lucrative business deals due to removing their stamp of approval. In the case of The Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company, it was a requirement for their international supply deal to purchase the certification. This is the case for many other companies which export products overseas.
In the end the right to choice has been taken away from the companies and those Australian consumers who wish to follow the dietary rules of halal eating. The halal stamp is simply the same guarantee and peace of mind that labels like gluten free, vegan, egg free, nut free, wheat free, lactose free, kosher or suitable for vegetarians brings for those wishing to be conscious and aware of the food they consume in the busy and often time constricted shopping lifestyle that modern Australians live in. It is a positive outward trend of a conscious and productive multicultural Australia.