Interview with Yassine Tebbal Quality Assurance Director at ISA
In this interview, Yassine Tebbal, Quality Assurance Director at Islamic Services of America (ISA) explains how companies can obtain Halal Certification. Mr. Tebbal is a food scientist who has worked as an auditor and QA director at ISA for over 14 years. Prior to that, he was a QA manager for Coca-Cola. He outlines the steps involved for companies that want to be Halal certified.
What is the first step to being certified?
When an applicant calls and says that they want to certify their products we first ask them what product or products they want to certify because the certification process primarily depends on the product. This includes confirming the source of origin for all ingredients (plant, animal, microbial, synthetic, mineral, etc.).
If the goods are meat products like poultry or beef or lamb, we have to consider the slaughter method and process. Is it hand or machine slaughtered? Each slaughterhouse has its processes and these processes must be reviewed prior to the audit inspection.
What if it’s not a meat or poultry product?
Flavors are complex items, so many flavor industries use different raw materials that may include alcohol and colors. We assess these critical ingredients based on the data that we receive from the customer.
Once you have the preliminary information then what is the next step?
Once we initially know the product, processes, and industry, we continue the certification process by sending the company an application. It asks basic questions like the main business address and additional facility locations, key contact names, titles phone and email information, product categories, numbers of products, and who owns the formulas for private label situations. Once the completed application is submitted and received, a service agreement is generated, and once executed, the Halal QA team takes on the formal product review process by requesting product lists, ingredient specifications and statements, process flow charts, and other supporting documentation. Once the products are approved, QA arranges the facility audit inspection process. It’s important to note that we even assess whether or not the product names meet Halal requirements.
Is it always straightforward?
With both simple and complex products, the steps are straightforward however additional time and effort are needed to properly analyze every product detail. Our team of specialists may often have questions and request clarifications. Take yogurt for example. You would think that yogurt products are simply dairy ingredients with bacteria in use. Sometimes after we receive the ingredient lists for yogurt products, we find that it contains animal enzymes. We then have to investigate the enzyme origins. The enzymes must be either plant-based or Halal certified. Some yogurt contains gelatin derived from pork which is impermissible according to Islam. Then, as you know, there are many different flavors, colors, and additives in yogurt. We need specs for everything. So while the product may appear simple, the Halal review process can be complex.
The Halal audit inspection process
Once ISA’s Halal Quality Assurance team reviews the ingredients and all requested clarifications have been addressed, we can move to the inspection audit. A pre-audit checklist is sent to the company and an audit inspection date is set. When all the Halal QA steps are completed, a technical and fiqh committee reviews the audit reports for assessment. The audit result is then shared with the Halal applicant.
ISA walks the applicant through every step of the process. Once the company gets Halal certification, it will be able to market its products to over a billion domestic and international consumers worldwide.
Learn more about the ISA Halal certification process here.