With approximately 3.3m UK Muslims now following a halal diet, and numbers growing, the standard aims to meet rising demand amongst the younger generation in particular, for halal-friendly convenience foods that are not traditional to Islamic culture.
Exova, which is a leading supplier of testing, auditing, compliance and advisory services, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The new standard is ideal for large retailers or supermarkets that want halal approval for a specific range, although we’ve also seen strong early interest from the food service and bakery sectors.”
The firm has partnered with accreditation expert the Universal Halal Agency to develop the standard, which builds the religious requirements of halal into a modular format, allowing firms to design bespoke audits that suit their specific needs.
Such accreditation schemes assure consumers that the foodstuffs they buy are not haram (forbidden under Islamic law) but halal or ‘permissible’, and the Exova standard is targeted at producers whose core product is not halal compliant, but who want to offer specific lines.
Modules cover processes such as the raising of meat, slaughtering, production and packaging. The audits are offered as optional extras that can be performed concurrently alongside well-established industry accreditation schemes such as the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety.
“The audit covers everything from slaughter rituals to the necessary separation of halal and non-halal lines in a manufacturing context and the cleaning of production lines,” the spokeswoman said.
Halal dictates that livestock is raised on feed without animal-derivatives, and must not be dead prior to the lawful act of slaughter: a single incision to the neck with a knife while prayers are said. Other rules forbid Muslims from eating pork, carnivorous animals, carrion, blood and its by-products, alcohol and intoxicants, and greatly affect the halal food production process.
Dedicated halal auditing body the Halal Food Authority (HFA) was established in 1994 and counts 300 businesses as members – from food outlets such as KFC to leading producers such as Allied Bakeries and Dairycrest.
President Masood Khawaja said that a ‘paradigm shift’ in eating habits meant bigger corporations were now showing a greater interest in halal auditing. KFC, for instance, has supplied HFA-accredited chicken to 80 restaurants in an ongoing trial since May 2009.
Khawaja said: “Second-generation Muslims are going for burgers, fried chicken, pizzas – so we are not only auditing traditional foods but a combination of eastern and western styles.
“Approximately 25-30% of general UK consumers, whether Muslim or not, are eating foods where the producer chooses to comply with halal regulations, so it is a massive market.”