Saturday, April 28, 2007

RP Pushes For Halal Labels On Foods

A minaret of a mosque in southern Philippines. Manila is pushing for Halal labeling on food products and Halal corners in supermarkets. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

ZAMBOANGA CITY - The Philippines’ effort to put in place the general guidelines or standards in the production, preparation, packaging, labeling and handling of “Halal” foods is expected to benefit Filipino consumers, particularly the country’s over 10 million Muslim population.

Regional trade chief Naz Manzur said this will also open new opportunities for food manufacturers, traders and exporters. They will now have access to the huge world trade for Halal food products estimated at over $580 billion annually today.

“The absence of standards on Halal food put the Muslim consumers in the country at a great disadvantage as it restricts their choices of food for their dietary requirement,” he said during a consultation of Halal foods Saturday in Zamboanga City.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Western Mindanao has also urged operators and owners of major grocery stores and supermarkets in Zamboanga City to set up Halal lanes or corners in their stores to cater to the fast growing demand for Halal certified products in the domestic market.

Sitti Amina Jain, DTI assistant regional director, said that aside from food, there is also a huge market for non-food Halal products that include cosmetics, perfume, toiletries, body care pharmaceuticals, herbal and healthcare products. There are also many business opportunities for fashion accessories and apparel, food processing plants and abattoirs, in service industries and in many other industries, she said.

The concept of opening Halal lanes, aside offering new business opportunities, is in line with the DTI’s mandate under the Consumer Act of the Philippines to safeguard consumers against misrepresentation, mislabeling and the fraudulent use of the Halal logo in products sold in the market.

The Halal lane initiative was well-received by the representatives of the 13 grocery stores and supermarkets in the city who attended the meeting but asked that they be given time to set up the lanes as the work entails lots of logistical support.

If this initiative pushes through, Halal lanes or corners shall have been installed in major grocery stores and supermarkets in Zamboanga City by October, in time for the celebration of the National Consumers’ Month.

Halal is meat that has been slaughtered in the manner prescribed by the Shari’a. The method of slaughtering all animals excluding fish and most sea-life is known as dhabiÄ¥a, meat prepared in this manner is then considered Halal.

The Qur’an provides certain guidelines for the Muslim believers to strictly adhere to products, especially food products that are produced and prepared following the tenets of the Muslim sacred scriptures. Muslims are to use and consume only Halal food - that which is permissible and lawful, and avoid anything that is considered Haram (forbidden) and Najis (unclean).

“Food products produced, prepared and handled following Halal standards are assured to be of the highest quality, thus benefiting not only the Muslims but also the non-Muslim consumers as well,” Manzur said.

The DTI said it will also organize a Halal Consumer Group to help the government in its advocacy for Halal and for networking purposes. (Lowell Vallecer)

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