It’s important to consumers – wherever they are in the world – that food is suitable and wholesome. For consumers in Islamic countries suitable food means food that is produced according to halal principles.
Applied to food, the concept of halal includes not only a ritual slaughter method for animals, but encompasses food safety and sanitary aspects in producing and handling products in accordance with halal principles. Other aspects of halal integrity include halal-compliant ingredients in processed foods as well as correct segregation of halal from non-halal products in production and transport right through to retail display.
New Zealanders may not generally appreciate the significance and size of the global market for halal products. With New Zealand’s relatively small Muslim population, we see few retail butchers in the streetscape advertising their meat as halal. However, what is probably even less known is that a large proportion of New Zealand sheep and beef meat is produced as halal to enable export to a wide range of Muslim markets.
According to The Economist 1.57 billion people – or nearly a quarter of the world's population – are Muslim. The world-wide halal food market has dramatically increased in the past decade. Its global value is now estimated at more than US$600 billion annually or approximately 16% of the entire food industry.
Halal meat is big business for New Zealand meat producers. Annual sheep meat exports to Saudi Arabia, for example, are worth $98 million, and $37 million to Malaysia. To ensure New Zealand beef and lamb continue to be acceptable to Islamic markets, the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) has developed new rules for halal food certification. This work has been carried out in consultation with industry and halal certification agencies to ensure our halal food certification is robust, credible and recognized by our trading partners.
The distribution and retail sale of halal meat products on the domestic market are not covered under these new rules.
Historically, there has been no government involvement with halal certification in New Zealand. International halal standards are now being developed and New Zealand needs to keep up with the emerging global trends in order to provide credible certification of halal food products to our trading partners. If we don’t, we could face access issues as markets tighten up their standards.
The new rules we have developed, among other things, set out competencies required by anyone who performs halal slaughter or certifies halal meat. These competency standards have been developed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). A National Islamic Advisory Council will be established under the new regulations and NZFSA will be able to look to these experts for advice on halal issues as they arise in the future.
Under the regulations government will have oversight of Islamic organisations which provide halal food export certification. The certifiers will continue to be approved by the Islamic authority in the importing country. This will give our trading partners improved assurances that New Zealand meat products have been produced according to the halal standards.
Halal meat production in New Zealand complies fully with all New Zealand animal welfare requirements.
NZFSA will continue to monitor and audit compliance with the new rules in line with our goal of ensuring all New Zealand food exports are fit for purpose, wholesome and suitable to consumers wherever they are.
Published in Food Technology, February 2010