This is despite the fast-food chain gaining accreditation for the products from the Halal Food Authority (HFA).
At issue is whether machine slaughtered animals are acceptable under Islamic law.
Shaykh Siddiqi, principal of Hijaz College, national convenor of the Muslim Action Committee, secretary general of the International Muslim Organisation and a barrister, brought together about 40 scholars to consider this issue.
Siddiqi said they had identified a problem with the requirement for a prayer to be said over each animal as it is slaughtered.
He told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “With machine killing, they are not praying the prayer on each of the birds. In fact when they are machine killing, they are not praying at all. They may just have a tape recording which defeats the whole purpose of halal.
“Credible scholars will not accede to the idea of machine slaughter. About 900 of the 1,200 mosques in the UK follow our point of view.”
Asked about KFC’s use of machine-slaughtered chickens, he said: “Anyone who sells machine slaughter is not halal and I would urge people to encourage organisations to sell real halal rather than that which is not fit for purpose.”
The Food Standards Agency’s ‘Guidance on Halal Food Issues’ supported their findings, claimed Siddiqi. He urged Trading Standards to use this as their guide when considering whether something was correctly labelled halal.
A spokesperson for KFC said: “We have worked closely with the Halal Food Authority for our halal products and have complete confidence in its credentials. The HFA is part of the World Halal Council, and it is the UK’s largest and longest-established halal certification body, accrediting over 200 other food-related businesses to ensure that the edicts and requirements for halal accreditation are strictly followed and adhered to.”
The HFA has clarified its stance on mechanical slaughter and 100% of KFC products, including halal meat, is supplied from animals that are stunned before slaughter, he added.
KFC is testing the sale of halal meat at nearly 100 outlets nationwide.
Masood Khawaja, president of the HFA, said it had been operating as a certification body for halal products in the UK for 18 years.
Referring to the need for prayers to be said over every chicken he added: “His [Siddiqi’s] school of thought says every animal. There is another school of thought that says the intention of the person who is slaughtering is required.”
What they say about halal slaughter:
Compassion in World Farming: “We believe that all slaughter should be humane, which means that animals must be stunned prior to slaughter using a method that causes immediate unconsciousness or, in the case of gas stunning, does not cause distress during the period before loss of consciousness.
“We understand that in the UK, a substantial proportion of animals slaughtered for Halal meat are stunned before slaughter; however, animals slaughtered for Kosher meat are in general not stunned before slaughter.”
KFC website: “Due to our strict animal welfare standards and the volume of chickens involved, our suppliers use mechanical slaughter. The HFA has confirmed that various Muslim scholars have approved the use of mechanical slaughter in order to take full advantage of progress made in science and technology.”
KFC website: "We insist that all our poultry is stunned before slaughter. Our halal chicken has been accredited by the Halal Food Authority, one of the most widely recognised bodies in the UK and overseas. It allows the use of a technique called 'stun-to-stun' - a pain free process that makes the animal insensible to pain and suffering. A verse is also recited from the Qu'ran at the point of slaughter by an appropriate person and the poultry will not come into contact with non-halal meat at any point in the supply chain."
Jim Paice, former food and farming minister: “Killing an animal without stunning is not acceptable in the western world. But we need to be tolerant and understanding of religious communities who want their meat produced in that way.”
The Halal Monitoring Committee: “The government, Trading Standards, everyone needs to get involved to protect the Muslim consumer from unscrupulous traders who are taking advantage of the halal industry. There are huge problems. The main issue is that it is so unregulated, people will take advantage.”