The Halal concept has involved the Western food industry in the past two decades, primarily due to the export of food products to the Middle East and Southeast Asia as well as in addressing immigrants’ needs in European communities.
The meaning of this Arabic word, “permitted” or “lawful,” is very clear. Nevertheless, its practical interpretation varies among food-importing countries, as does its understanding by companies that produce food. Each Islamic country has its own Halal requirements and doctrines leading to the complexity of harmonization of these standards.
The dietary requirements of different religious and ethnic groups are often not familiar to Food Scientists and Technologists, let alone food processors and their stakeholders. They are generally only exposed to general concepts such as kosher, halal, and vegetarian in industry, whereas new concepts are introduced to food production in order to meet their customers’ requirements especially while exporting to Islamic countries or communities.
In addition, Halal products are fast gaining worldwide recognition as a new benchmark for safety, quality assurance and related doctrines. Products that are produced with Halal certification are readily acceptable by Muslim consumers as well as consumers from other religions. This acceptance is due to the wholesomeness concept of halal, which covers not only the Sharia (Islamic law) requirement, but also the hygiene, sanitation and related safety aspects. To achieve the wholesomeness concept, both aspects need to be adhered to and implemented together. Failure in any of it will cripple the wholesomeness concept of Halal food.
The concept of the Halal food value chain is an extensive approach to Halal production that refers to the examination of food processes in its preparation, slaughtering, cleaning, processing, handling, disinfecting, storing, transportation and management practices. The application of halal should apply to all stages of processing "from farm to table", and could include animal welfare environmental issues and social components.
The concept of hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) has been used to identify Halal Control Points (HCPs). The objective here is not to replace HACCP, which address the food safety issues, but to complement these requirements by adding key points for halal compliance.
Ensuring a product is halal is not only limited to the materials and ingredients used. Halal requirements cover all aspects of preparation, processing, packaging, distribution and all related processes. Any equipment found to be in contact or contaminated with non halal materials must be cleansed according to the Sharia requirements. In Halal food, cleanliness and hygiene is very closely related to food safety. This is an important prerequisite halal certification and the requirement covers personal hygiene, attire, equipment and working environment.