Rules to be tightened for halal label claims

Labels, packaging and/or advertising billing food sold in Canada as certified halal will soon be required to include the name of the food’s certifying body.

The federal government last week announced amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations, meant to provide consumers with “assurances that (halal) food meets a certifying body’s standard.”

The amendments, published in the Canada Gazette on April 23, are to come into force two years after the day they were registered.

Food deemed halal follows standards laid out in the Qur’an, the principal scripture of Islam, for food preparation and storage, foods’ ingredients, materials coming in contact with food, and methods of livestock slaughter.

The new requirements will apply to both domestic and imported products, the government said.

Specifically, the new regulation will ban anyone from using, either in labelling, packaging, advertising or selling a food, the word “halal” or any letters of the Arabic alphabet or any other word, expression, sign, symbol, mark, device or other representation “likely to create an impression” that a food is halal — unless the name of the person or body that certified the food as halal is indicated.

It’ll be up to a consumer to determine whether the requirements of a given certifying body meet his or her expectations for halal, the government said, emphasizing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency won’t be establishing federal standards for what can be labelled as halal, nor will it establish requirements for becoming a halal certifying body.

CFIA’s role in this regulation, the government said, will be to verify that halal claims are accompanied by the name of the certifying body or person or “any supporting documentation to indicate as such.”

It’s expected the amendments will provide “consistency for industry and help prevent mislabelling practices and claims regarding halal food products,” the government said. Consumers will also be able to get “specific information about the standards the food has met.”

The government also emphasized the change “does not affect food safety” and halal products sold in Canada “are still required to meet Canada’s stringent food safety standards.”

“Various interpretations”

Ottawa estimates the value of the market for halal food products in Canada today at about $1 billion, given a Canadian Muslim community estimated at a million people in 2006 and forecast to triple by 2031.

Increased demand for halal food products is expected to lead to an increased number of businesses in the market and products marketed as halal, the government said. However, “it is difficult for consumers of halal food to make informed purchase decisions without knowing the standard used in certifying the food product as halal.”

Also, the government said, “there are various interpretations of Islamic law which makes reaching a consensus amongst Canadian Muslims as to what constitutes halal difficult to achieve.”

Stakeholders, the government said in its regulatory impact analysis statement, “want a more proactive approach that will assist in alleviating this situation.”

During consultations in 2010, the government said, stakeholders in food processing and the Muslim community indicated they would have ideally wanted halal regulated through a standard.

However, it added, stakeholders recognize government “cannot take action to enforce a halal standard without consensus among the stakeholders themselves as to what constitutes halal.” — AGCanada.com Network

 

 

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