MAJOR food companies are under attack from anti-Islam critics over certifying their food as halal.
Well-known brands such as Vegemite, Cadbury Flake and Nestle’s Kit Kat chocolate are among thousands of products given halal certification through financial deals with Islamic organisations.
But activists have posted comments on social media sites of some companies, arguing that the cost of certification effectively forces non-Muslim consumers to subsidise the religious beliefs of a minority group.
Kirallie Smith, who runs the Halal Choices website, said most food was halal, or permitted under Islamic sharia law, so costly certification was unnecessary.
“This certification is about taking money from non-Muslims and giving it to Muslims,” she said.
“If I want to buy rosary beads as a Catholic, that’s my choice; if I want to buy incense as a Buddhist, that’s my choice; if I want to fund Islam, it needs to be my choice, not through everyday grocery purchases without my knowledge,’ she said.
But a Cadbury spokesman said the “small fees” paid to certification bodies to check ingredients didn’t affect pricing and were more than offset by access to further markets, which created more local jobs.
He said halal certification gave Muslims an easy way to determine if they could eat the company’s products.
“It’s consumer information, similar to gluten-free or kosher labels,” he said.
“Nothing in our products or the way we manufacture our products has been changed to attain halal certification. There’s also no reason why certification should be incompatible with other religious beliefs.”
A Nestle spokeswoman also said costs were not passed on to consumers, and certification of a small number of products by the Islamic Co-ordinating Council of Victoria was not used as a marketing tool.
“We will continue to have products in our range that are suitable for people with special dietary requirements,” she said.
The Herald Sun was unable to obtain comment from Muslims Australia, formerly the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, which is the main national body responsible for halal accreditation.
Its website lists a schedule of fees and charges for services, ranging from $30 for assessment of one to three ingredients to $200 for a four-hour site inspection.
Originally published on www.heraldsun.com.au/