The global halal industry has been growing steadily for the past two decades. But, what are the halal standards and guidelines for halal certification to control the fast-growing industry? This is one of the most important questions we have ever tried to address as everyone in the halal industry seems to have their own spin on the definition of what halal means to them.
Many Muslim-majority countries seem to follow their own halal standards which are not necessarily compatible with those of other countries. In the same way, many halal certification bodies issue halal certificates based on their own criteria which may not match with the ones issued by other certification organizations. In fact, there is no unified halal standard in the world. So, what do we do as laymen who do not know much about the concept of halal and haram in all the details?
Based on some guiding principles from the Quran and the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH), we will try to address this question. These are the bare minimum halal standards that most people seem to agree with no matter which halal standard they follow. The Halal Times has gathered the basic details about the concept so that people like you and I can easily determine what is halal and what is haram.
The Halal Times editors have worked hard to gather all the relevant information about the general halal standards prevailing globally. We hope the document will be used as a blueprint to verify what halal standards certifications should follow while issuing Halal certificates to food manufacturers and other companies in different parts of the world.
What Are Halal Standards?
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details of what are the halal standards commonly accepted by most halal certification organizations, and Muslim-majority countries, we need to develop a basic understanding of what halal actually is.
Halal: Means permissible in the Arabic language
Halal Food: Food permitted according to the Sharia (Islamic Law)
Haram: Forbidden, including the categories of carrion or dead (unslaughtered carcasses), flowing blood, swine, intoxicants including alcohol
Makrooh: Disliked, detested, or discouraged
Mashbooh: Suspect, in doubt or questionable
Mathhab: School of thought in Islam
Najs: Filth, including things that are themselves not permissible such as pigs and their derivatives, blood, and carrion; fluids or objects discharged from the human or animals’ bodies such as urine, excrements, blood, vomit, and pus.
Tasmiya & Takbir: Bismillah Allahu Akbar, which means by the name of God, the Greatest.
Zabiha: Thabiha in Arabic means slaughtered with a sharp instrument.
Why Halal Standards Needed?
As awareness amongst Muslim consumers around the World increases, demand grows for authentic Halal foods. Besides meat, several other issues concerning food drew attention recently. Food ingredients like flavors, oils, enzymes in cheese, and a variety of other derivatives plus new technologies used in food processing have further complicated the picture.
Alcohol and pork derivatives could be embedded in all kinds of products that need to be identified and avoided for food products to be considered Halal. Establishing and adopting Halal procedures in the processing of consumable and non-consumable goods has become important for consumers and producers alike.
The Halal Times attempts to standardize the Halal procedures to adopt and promote these Halal Standards across industries around the globe.
Common Guidelines For Halal Certification Organizations Globally
Perhaps the most important thing from the perspective of a Halal supervising or certifying organization is that they should have officers or staff members who have had education and experience in the slaughtering of animals and birds according to Shariah principles. These employees must be Muslims.
Certifying organizations of food ingredients and non-food products should employ officers who have updated knowledge in food science and technology, supervision of food processing, and product derivatives. These officers would be able to effectively monitor and communicate with food manufacturers on matters that are considered sensitive by Muslims.
The companies seeking halal certification should consider Halal certification organizations as business partners because it is they who will advise and assist them in halal slaughtering, production, quality control, product flow systems, hygiene, sanitizing, packaging, labeling, transportation, and storage for all halal products.
Also, the certification organization needs to have religious consultants advising in matters related to proper slaughtering procedures and ingredient approval from religious points of view. Religious advisors should be aided by scientific knowledge and technology so that they can give sound opinions and specific guidelines.
The certifying organization needs to keep a detailed account and data on production procedures including receiving and storage of raw materials, processing, packaging, labeling, transportation, and storage of finished products. Records need to be maintained on the inspector’s audits and findings during his/her visits to the production plant.
The inspectors and supervisors should have control over the use of their organization’s name and the related Halal symbols. If the certifying organization ceases to certify a manufacturing plant or a product the organization should cancel the authorization of the plant’s right to use the certification organization’s name and /or symbol on those products. Consumers also need to be informed of this change in supervision and certification.
Halal certifiers should also be mindful of the latest regulations in both exporting and importing countries as the information will have a direct impact on the business of the food manufacturers.
Requirements for Meat, Poultry & Other Animal Species
In general, it is recommended for local communities to follow their Mathhabs, or scholars, regarding the permissibility or prohibition of consumption of species not mentioned in this document.
Acceptable species among land animals include cattle, lambs, goats, buffalo, deer, and camels. Chicken, turkeys, pigeons, ostriches, geese, swans, ducks, and alike are acceptable birds. The acceptable animals and birds must also be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter.
Unacceptable species include swine from which all pork and pork products are produced. Swine are considered Haram and they are unfit for Muslim consumption. Other unacceptable animals include beasts or birds of prey having talons, fangs, or tusks such as lions, wolves, dogs, cats, tigers, jackals, monkeys, elephants, falcons, eagles, vultures, crows, owls, etc. Besides, animals that are considered filthy or dangerous are also Haram such as domesticated donkeys, mice, rats, poisonous snakes, scorpions, spiders, lice, etc. The milk and eggs of prohibited species are similarly forbidden for consumption.
Generally, all fish and seafood are considered Halal without having to be slaughtered. Excluded are species that are poisonous, intoxicating, or hazardous to human health.
B. Slaughterers and Supervisors
The slaughterers and supervisors should be sane Muslims who understand the rules and conditions of slaughtering in Islam. They should be trained in Halal slaughtering practices and be approved by the certifying organization. An adequate number of slaughterers and supervisors should be employed at slaughterhouses and meat processing plants and it is recommended that such staff be employed by the Halal certifying organization.
C. Slaughtering Tools
The slaughtering instrument should be a sharp, single-edge instrument that cuts by its edge not by its weight, such as knives, swords, fixed blades, etc. The instrument cannot be a claw, tooth or nail, or un-sharpened object.
D. Methods of Slaughter
Hand Slaughter: By this method, the animals or the birds are slaughtered by an instrument held directly by the slaughterer’s hand. The slaughterer must be a Muslim well trained with knowledge of animal welfare to cause no pain or suffering to the animal. The person must be strong enough to assume the responsibilities associated with the task of slaughter.
Mechanical Slaughter: Many Muslim countries now accept mechanically slaughtered poultry. Nonetheless, where mechanical slaughtering is used, the process of slaughtering should be controlled by an adequate number of Muslims. The following conditions must be met:
a) The mechanical knife must be a single sharp blade that produces a sharp cut on the front side of the bird’s neck. A dorsal cut is forbidden.
b) Such mechanisms must effectively sever the required vessels. the esophagus, trachea, and the two major blood vessels in the neck.
c) Any bird that misses the mechanical knife has to be slaughtered by hand.
d) There should be signs of convulsion in the birds after slaughter.
Stunning: Whilst stunning is frowned upon, it is permissible as long as the animal/ bird does not die instantly as a result of stunning. Stunning of animals and birds if necessary should be performed using a stunning method at a certain strength approved by health and Islamic authorities.
E. The Process of Slaughtering
a) At the time of slaughter, the Tasmiya and Takbir must be pronounced over animals or birds by a trained Muslim slaughterer.
b) It is very important to treat animals and birds humanely and reduce pain and suffering to animals during slaughtering.
c) The knife should cut through the skin, trachea, esophagus, and two major blood vessels swiftly to ensure thorough and quick bleeding of the animal. The spinal cord of an animal/bird should not be severed during slaughtering.
d) There should be adequate time for bleeding of an animal/bird until it dies before scalding and evisceration.
e) Slaughterhouses are encouraged to perform a total Halal slaughter which eliminates the need for additional controls, labeling of carcasses, and supervising, and reduces the risk of mixing meats and contamination.
f) There should not be slaughtering or processing of unacceptable species in the same facility where acceptable species are being slaughtered or processed.
g) The Halal Slaughterer should always keep logs of the dates and times of slaughtering and numbers of animals/birds slaughtered.
F. Packaging and Labeling
Unless the facility is %100 Halal, carcasses must be properly marked and traced throughout evisceration, processing, and packaging so as not to mix the Halal slaughtered meat with non-Halal. All packages and containers must be labeled with the proper information and the proper Halal label/logo, under the supervision of the certifying organization. Shipments of Halal meat should be accompanied by a Halal certificate issued by the certifying organization. The Muslim supervisor shall at all times maintain control of the use of Halal logos, stamps, and seals.
G. Storage and Transportation
The storage place-cooler or freezer should be inspected by the Muslim inspector and approved for storage of Halal meats. Halal raw and exposed meat and meat products shall at all times be stored separately in dedicated facilities. Containers, receptacles, racks, and shelves used for Halal meat and meat products shall always be free from any contamination with non-Halal. It is preferred to store the packaged Halal meats in separate, designated, and labeled areas in the cooler or freezer.
Transportation of Halal products should be in clean, preferably refrigerated, vehicles in a manner that would prevent contamination with non-Halal products or spoilage during transportation. Separation of Halal from non-Halal products during transportation is not necessary if products are sealed. If products are not sealed there is a likelihood of leakage especially in fresh meats and this calls for separation of Halal from non-Halal products.
V. Guidelines for Halal Certification of Processing Plants and Procedures
A. Overall Approval of Plants and Procedures
For a facility to be approved for general Halal certification, it must consistently perform the same type of production and produce the same group of approved products using the same ingredients, otherwise, continuous supervision is necessary. Upon request for approval by the processing plant, the Halal certifying organization should:
1. Review the production layout, production procedures, policies, and practices. This will involve direct inspection and discussion with the plant management and personnel.
2. Review and approve all ingredients. Ingredients and the supplier’s procedures need to be established and all-new suppliers or any change in the ingredients during the year’s certification period need to be evaluated.
3. Develop and approve a written procedure for “Halal-only” certified production, which could differ from non-Halal production, i.e. develop a Halal Assurance System or a Halal Critical Control Point system.
4. Authorize, in writing, how and when the producer can use the certifying organization’s name and Halal logo on products and in advertising, and confirm packaging.
5. Review sanitation procedures, sanitation chemicals, preparation of equipment, to evaluate the cleaning program.
6. For simple or dedicated production lines, where the same processes are used daily, there is no need for supervision like in canning plants. Once production practices are documented and set up, the trained supervisor doesn’t need to be present to supervise all aspects of production. In such situations, the plant and all production may be considered Halal all the time, requiring only an annual review and a certification letter.
When an annual certification letter is issued to the processor, a control listing of lot codes produced under Halal supervision must be maintained by the certifying organization to attest to the Halal status by lot or batch code.
7. Perform impromptu audits to check the documentation, sanitation, ingredients, sign-in logs, packaging, labeling, and storage.
B. Guidelines for Complex Production
Prepared foods usually contain a wide variety of ingredients or derivatives and thus there is a need for the certifying organization to be extra careful in reviewing and approving suppliers’ sources. The production plant of complex and multiple meat-based products such as soups, stews, prepared meals, etc must have an on-site Muslim supervisor.
If the plant produces vegetarian and Halal products but also produces non-Halal meat products on an irregular basis, the facility needs to conduct specific cleaning and preparation processes before starting Halal production.
For complex production where Halal meat products are processed, the certifying organization must be informed every time the Halal production is scheduled. In this case, the following guidelines should be followed:
1. There should be an on-site inspection performed by a Muslim at the beginning of each production shift to check ingredients, cleanliness, and packaging.
2. The raw meat to be used for processing must originate from a Halal slaughtering plant.
3. Complete and thorough cleaning must be done before the commencement of Halal production. Equipment, piping (CIP in place or dismounted), feed lines, conveyors, cooking equipment, utensils retorts, kettles, totes, barrels, and all other equipment used for Halal production must be thoroughly cleaned and free from foreign material.
4. It is preferred to run the Halal production at the beginning of the work shift when all machines are clean and sanitized. Whenever a non-Halal product is run between Halal productions, a Muslim inspector must inspect again all the ingredients, cleanliness, and packaging.
5. The certifying organization must obtain a production report of what is produced as Halal and non-Halal products by lot code.
6. Packaging control procedures must be in place to assure that only Halal-certified products are labeled with Halal labels or logos.
7. The processing plant must not process pork or pork-derived ingredients using the same equipment and machines. Otherwise, a complete physical separation must be established at the plant to prevent any chance of contamination of Halal food with forbidden ingredients.
C. Documents Needed for the Used Ingredients or Derivatives
Manufacturers supplying ingredients to processors should provide authorized statements that such ingredients do not contain alcohol or unacceptable animal-based products. These documents need to be produced before the production of complex Halal products. If an inspector finds non-approved alternative ingredients or supplies that cannot be accepted then the certification procedure is immediately suspended or revoked until cleared by the certifying organization.
D. Requirements for Packaging Materials
Packaging materials may be questionable in their Halal status. Plastic containers of frozen foods may appear to be acceptable while the source of some of the ingredients of plastics may not be clean. In many cases, stearates of animal origin may be used in their production. Metal cans are also suspect and some of them may use oil to manufacture cans. Such oils must be derived from Halal sources. The packaging or canning materials must not contain any Najs, toxic or harmful components.
E. Requirements for Labeling
The Halal certifying organization must have a written agreement with the processor indicating that the printed labels and packaging materials that will be supplied to the processor are approved by the certifying organization. Under no circumstances can a company use a certifying organization’s name and or symbol on its packages as certified Halal unless they have written approval from the organization. The use of all Halal logos, symbols, and stamps must be under the control of the certifying organization. The information on packages or containers of Halal food should include, among other relevant information, the name or symbol of the certifying organization, name of the product, list of ingredients, weight, date of production, and special codes for tracing products back to the source.
F. Requirements for Storage and Transportation
Same as those required for meat and poultry mentioned above.
VI. Guidelines for Halal Certification of Food Service Facilities
- The restaurant or foodservice facility must be inspected by a representative of the certifying organization upon request from the owners/managers. The inspector will check all the cooking utensils, kitchen equipment, freezers/coolers, packages, and storage areas and examine the menus and prepare a report of his findings. If the review is positive the restaurant will be certified to serve Halal foods for a year to be renewed yearly upon request and inspection.
- The restaurant must not process or serve pork or pork products at any time. Also, the facility must not use or serve alcohol.
- The raw or further processed meat to be used in food preparation must originate from an approved Halal slaughtering/processing plant. Each box of Halal meat must be marked Halal and accompanied by a Halal certificate from the processor.
- All food ingredients, including flavorings, oils, marinating solutions, etc. must be disclosed to the inspector and must be approved as Halal before being used.
- The restaurant facility and equipment must be cleaned periodically and thoroughly. Utensils and equipment must be cleaned with hot water and detergent after use. Fresh meets should not come in contact with other food items.
- There should be clean restrooms located outside the dining area where employees must wash their hands with detergent every time they use them. Good hygienic practices are encouraged all the time by the restaurant employees. Customers should have access to the restrooms too.
- Once the restaurant is approved by the certifying organization, the management should post the Halal Certificate for the facility in a place where customers and inspectors can see it and inquire about it if they wish to.
- Impromptu audits to the facility by the Muslim inspector should be performed periodically to guarantee compliance.
VII. Requirements for other Halal Foods and Ingredients/Derivatives
A. Plants and other Species
Generally, all plants and other species such as mushrooms, algae, bacteria, etc. are considered Halal except those which are poisonous, intoxicating, or hazardous to human health.
B. Fruits, Juices and Vegetables
Fruits, vegetables, and natural juices are all considered Halal when they are pure. Processed fruits and vegetables may not be accepted if they are processed in factories using non Halal oils, fats, preservatives, flavoring, etc. The use of processing oils and other added ingredients must be evaluated for Halal status.
C. Milk and Dairy Products
Milk: Milk derived from domesticated Halal species is acceptable.
Yogurt: Yoghurt and yogurt products should not contain gelatin. If gelatin is used, it must be derived from the bones and hides of Halal slaughtered animals.
Cheese: Many kinds of cheese contain rennet and other enzymes, which are derived from animals. It is essential to ensure that these enzymes are derived from Halal slaughtered animals or microbial or plant sources.
D. Bread, Breading, Cakes, and Pastries
Bakery goods do pose Halal concern. Breading on products like fried chicken or cheese sticks or the use of breading in the stuffing of fillers may contain questionable ingredients like cysteine, fats, oils, colors, flavors, preservatives, and alcohol-based ingredients. It is important to make sure that no alcohol or un-Halal animal-based ingredients are used in pieces of bread, breading, cakes, or pastries.
E. Fats and Oils
Fats must be derived from Halal slaughtered animals and oils from a plant source. Haram preservatives or processing aids must not be used in vegetable-based oil.
F. Alcohol By-Products
Alcohol usually refers to ethyl alcohol. All products or ingredients containing alcohol are prohibited in Islam, even for cooking purposes or in fillings such as candies. Artificial and natural flavors, colors, and some type of meat or vegetable bases may contain alcohol products used to carry the flavor. The level of alcohol in the final food product should be below 0.05% to be acceptable. This amount will vary by country.
Vinegar, a by-product of alcohol, is permitted in Islam but it is advisable not to use the words “wine vinegar” in order not to confuse consumers. Amyland Isomers of Amyl Alcohol is not acceptable.
G. Other Ingredients/ Derivatives
It is important to check all ingredients added to Halal Consumables and to Non-Consumables during processing before use to make sure that such ingredients are Halal certified by a certifying organization. The following is a list of some ingredients or derivatives. For more listing of ingredients check with the manufacturer and with your Muslim scholars or advisors for opinions.
Anti-Caking: All anti-foaming agents are acceptable except for Edible Bone Phosphate, animal Stearic Acid, and Animal Magnesium Stearate unless derived from Halal slaughtered animals. All vegetable oil or silica-based preparations are Halal.
Antioxidants: All acceptable, except Tocopherols unless derived from vegetable oil.
Artificial Sweetening Agents: All Halal.
Clones and GMO’s: The acceptance of Clones of species and Genetically Modified Organisms for Muslim consumption is still questionable. The final status of their approval or not is awaiting Muslim Jurists to decide on. (see also Transgenic below).
Colors: All Halal, providing that animal emulsifier is not used as a carrier or ethanol used as a solvent.
Emulsifiers: Plant-derived emulsifiers and those derived from animals that are slaughtered Halal are acceptable.
Enzymes: All plant and microbial enzymes are acceptable. Also enzymes from permissible animals that are slaughtered Halal are acceptable.
Flavor Enhancers: Must not have animal enzymes used as catalysts.
Flour Treatment Agents: Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate, and L-Cysteine Hydrochloride must be derived from a Halal source.
Food Acids: Lactic Acid must be derived from a Halal source.
Fusel Oil: This is a mixture of several alcohols, chiefly amyl alcohol, produced as a by-product of alcohol fermentation. Fusel Oil is not acceptable for use as a flavoring for Halal goods.
Gelatin: Gelatin is a water-soluble protein prepared from collagen, which is obtained from the corium or inner layer of beef hides from cattle slaughtered for human consumption. The extraction of gelatin from collagen is a separation process not a change of state. Halal gelatin can only be obtained from collagen obtained from the inner layer of beef hides of cattle that have been slaughtered Halal.
Islam allows the use of the skin or outer layer of the hide only after tanning for the production of canteens or water carriers, garments, shoes, belts, etc. Muslims are forbidding from consuming the hides unless under duress. All fish gelatin is considered Halal.
Glands from Cats or Beavers: Ingredients from these glands, which are used in some strawberry and chocolate flavorings, cannot be used in Halal flavorings.
Glycerin /Glycerol: Must be derived from plant sources.
Humectants: Glycerin and Hydrogenated Glucose Syrups must be derived from a plant source.
Mineral Salts: All salts are Halal.
Non-Consumables: Non-food substances and materials such as cosmetics, clothing, shoes, etc. which are applied to the human body and worn by Muslims should be checked to make sure that all the ingredients used in their manufacturing are not derived from Haram sources. Also, Halal non-consumables should not be toxic or hazardous to human health.
Preservatives: All preservatives are considered Halal except those which might be dangerous to human health.
Propellants: All Halal.
Thickeners: Enzyme-treated starches must be Halal sourced.
Transgenic: Plants that have other plant genes transplanted into them are Halal. Plants with animals’ genes introduced to them may be acceptable only if the animal species are acceptable. The introduction of genes from non-acceptable species to acceptable species is not permitted.
Vegetable Gums: All gums from plant sources are Halal.
Vinegar: Muslims are allowed to consume products that change from a Haram state to a Halal state. For example, low fermented fruit juice with alcohol is Haram, however, vinegar resulting from it is considered Halal.