GHI webinar: Food Safety in Relation to Religious Dietary Laws

Date: 08 July 2022, Time: 2pm CEST

Duration: 1,5 hours

The GHI Working Group on Food Safety in Relation to Religious Dietary Laws is focused on the importance of meeting the needs of religious communities for food that is consistent with their requirements and/or with the customs of their religion. To be food secure, foods need to meet the accepted religious limits. Food safety practices must also be consistent with religious limitations. For example, to oversimplify, Muslims avoid pork, ethyl alcohol, and filth. And while slaughtering acceptable animals, it must be consistent with a set of religious practices. This webinar will focus on the needs of the Muslim community, which represents around 25% of the world’s population. Also, many of the 57 member countries of the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) operate with Halal systems in place as part of their governmental legal system. At the same time, there are organizations specifically designed to supervise and certify the production of Halal foods and ingredients in many different countries. The degree of supervision, transparency, and accreditation of these organizations will vary. This creates challenges for Muslim consumers operating in a global food supply chain and as such, GHI is working to identify and address these differences in a respectful way.

This GHI webinar and interactive sessions, will be expertly chaired by Dr. Diana Bogueva, GHI Working Groups Director.

Halal Certifiers and the Halal Questionnaire

Professor Joe M. Regenstein, Head of the Kosher and Halal Food Initiative at Cornell University, USA and Member of GHI Board of Directors.

The goal of GHI is to provide a safer and more secure food supply. One of the important considerations for about a quarter of the world’s population is that the secure food supply be Halal. But what does Halal mean and how does one determine if the food one is eating is Halal? The latter is handled through a system of Halal certifiers - organizations that generally for a fee will certify a product as Halal according to the certifier’s standards.
GHI is contributing to helping the consumer by first providing a list of Halal certifiers with their web site information when available. Thus Halal consumers are encouraged to contact the certifier if they have any questions. In addition, GHI has prepared an extensive questionnaire discussing the choices a Halal certifier may make and which some but not all Muslims might agree with. By making the questionnaire public, consumers can make an informed decision and hold the agency accountable to say what they do and do what they say. The goal is to help make the global system work better by increasing access to information.

Religious Food and Boundaries

Isabella van Roekel-van Rijn, is Co-Chair of the GHI Working Group on Food Safety in Relation to Religious Dietary Laws and is based in the Netherlands.

A religious claim often concerns a credence quality attribute, meaning that the consumer is not able to see anything on the food or drink itself implying that the food or drink they purchase is truly produced/prepared following the expected religious practises. This means that consumers rely on certification of the product, especially when, due to globalisation, supply chains are long and not always completely transparent for the religious consumer.

In addition, in most religions consuming food produced according to religious requirements, the food plays a very important role, and consuming such foods can therefore also be considered as a practice of religion. Therefore transparency in certification of religiously prepared food does not only touch upon the consumer rights as such but also upon our human rights, where the right to practice religion is one of them.

Within our GHI Working Group - Food safety in relation to religious dietary laws - we noticed in previous years that religiously prepared food can be rejected because of lack in transparency of countries regarding religious requirements and sometimes also due to more strict interpretations of religiously prepared food. These circumstances can prevent food from reaching its destination, and on occasions even lead to the death of people in need of food.

As the Global Harmonization Initiative's objective is to achieve consensus on the science that underlies food regulations and legislation to ensure the global availability of safe and wholesome food products for all consumers, we are working to contribute to this objective by improving transparency in the certification of religiously prepared food.

Halal Certification: Japan as a Model Case

Dr. Quamrul Hasan, Chairman, Japan Halal Research Institute for Products and Services, Kobe, Japan, and Member of the GHI Working Group on Food Safety in Relation to Religious Dietary Laws.

As Japan’s constitution creates a secular country that cannot be involved in or support any religion, this becomes the main obstacle to the recognition of Halal certifying bodies (HCB) in Japan by the Japanese government. As a result, instead of government-regulated or accredited HCB, the individual non-profit and private certifying organizations currently operate independently though some are accredited by foreign countries' authoritative bodies. There are about ten HCB in Japan that are active and visible. A few of them are recognized/accredited by one or more other governments such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and the 7 countries of the Gulf States’ GCC Standardization Organization.
The Japan Halal Association (JHA), a non-profit organization based in Osaka, is one of them and currently has the most number of clients and the highest credibility in the country. Most of the clients of JHA are food ingredients/raw materials or product manufacturers in Japan exporting to other Asian and Gulf countries. The local market demand for Halal products is insignificant because of the small Muslim population in Japan. The demand for ‘made-in-Japan’ food ingredients/products by importing countries is gradually increasing. This is mainly due to the high quality and safety of the products produced in Japan using advanced technology and maintaining hygienic conditions while also often being a unique product. Despite some success, the HCB in Japan including JHA face some common challenges working in a country where Halal is not recognized by the government due to its direct connection with religion.

Speaker 1:
Prof. Joe M. Regenstein

Joe M. Regenstein is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University, USA. He received a B.A. in chemistry from Cornell`s College of Arts and Sciences, an MS in dairy chemistry from CALS, and a PhD in biophysics from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. He joined Cornell faculty in 1974 and is a member of the Field of Food Science and the Field of International Development. He is an Adjunct Professor in Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences in the Vet School, a member of the Governing Board of the Science of Natural and Environmental Systems (SNES) program, and Head of the Kosher and Halal Food Initiative. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Food Industry Program at Kansas State University.

Speaker 2:
Isabella van Roekel-van Rijn

Isabella van Roekel van Rijn studied Nutrition and Health at Wageningen University where she graduated on the topic: Implementation of Islamic dietary law in the chain of Halal meat by Islamic Butchers in the Netherlands. This involved a cross sectional survey among Islamic butchers in the Netherlands. As an outcome of this study it seemed that holding a Halal Certificate did not always guarantee the religious quality of a product. It was also found that since there was no Dutch or European legislation in place regarding Halal requirements, other than regulation on ritual slaughtering, numerous certification bodies arose following different rules to identify a food as Halal. This triggered Isabella to investigate the world of certification regarding religiously prepared food and the consumer right to purchase a product that truly meets their expectations.

Speaker 3:
Dr. Quamrul Hasan

Dr. Quamrul Hasan is the founder and chairman of the Japan Halal Research Institute for Products and Services (JAHARI), also currently managing an educational program on Halal Science, Technology and Innovation as a Specially Appointed Professor at the Center for Global Initiatives, Osaka University, Japan. Previously, he worked for Procter & Gamble Company, as an R&D Senior Scientist, and invented and co-developed a health-care consumer product “Febreze-Allergen Reducer”, which was launched successfully into the global market in 2004. He obtained a Ph.D. in Biotechnology from Kyoto University, Japan.

Chair & Event Moderator:
Dr. Diana Bogueva

Dr. Diana Bogueva, GHI Working Groups Director is a social scientist with interests in sustainable food consumption, alternative proteins, consumer perception of novel food processing technologies and generational consumer behaviour, food sustainability and harmonization. Diana’s work has won three awards: the Australian National Best Book winner in 2019 and the World’s Best Book award 2020 in the Vegetarian book category at the prestigious 24th and 25th Gourmand Awards, considered equivalent to the Oscars in the area of food books, for her co-edited book ‘Environmental, Health and Business Opportunities in the New Meat Alternatives Market’. She also won the 2020 Faculty of Humanities Journal Article of the Year Award at Curtin University for their co-authored paper “Planetary Health and reduction in meat consumption”, which was at the top 5% of all world research outputs scored by Altmetrics. Diana is also a finalist in the 10th International Book Award at America’s Book Fair 2019 for her co-edited book ‘Handbook of Research on Social marketing and its influence on animal origin food product consumption’. In 2022 Diana published her first co-authored book ‘Food in a Planetary Emergency’ with Professor Dora Marinova. This book is a timely overview of current food systems and the required transformations to respond to climate change, population pressures, biodiversity loss and use of natural resources.