You may think everything you get from your local Halal grocery shop is as Halal to the tee: Islamically slaughtered, pretty fresh, free of germs, etc. But you may be in for a surprise.
Some of the meat sold in smaller Muslim grocery stores may actually be bought from the non-Muslim wholesale market with little connection to Muslim food standards.
Hussain Iftikher is a partner in the company Halal Farms U.S.A., which is marketing products under the name Rehmat Meats in Illinois.
“Most of the people who market Halal products to the mainstream supermarket do not sell Halal products,” he says.
“The [Muslim] store owners would buy 10 to 15 carcasses from me and in most of the cases buy products from American slaughter plants where the cost is a little cheaper,” he explains. “They show the receipt to customers that they are buying [meat certified by] Rehmat Meats but in fact only 10 to 15 percent of the meat is Islamically slaughtered.”
While this is, of course, not the case with all Halal grocery store owners, it does show need for greater scrutiny on the part of Muslim consumers to ensure they are getting Halal, quality meat and food products.
“Muslim consumers should not be complacent,” says Mohammad Mazhar Hussaini, the Muslim halal expert, which is involved with Halal certification in the U.S. and abroad. “It is their right, they should ask their manufacturers, retailers and the certifying bodies about the meeting of Halal standards.”
He advises Muslims to ask five questions if they suspect malpractice or wrongdoing involving Halal meat of food products:
1. Ask at the retail store (Halal grocery store) whether or not a given product or products are Halal.
2. When it comes to meat, if it is Halal, who is the certifying agency. The certification should be by a third-party, not the manufacturer and not the retailer.
3. How do you contact the certifying agency? This information has to be public. Muslim grocers, store owners and meat manufacturers have to be accountable to the public because the certifying agencies are supposed to be protecting the consumers’ rights.
They are not there to make profit. They will make profit to run the organization, but they are accountable to the public because they are the ones who are taking the responsibility for saying the meat or product is Halal or not to the satisfaction of the consumer.
4. When you contact the certifying agency, ask who is slaughtering the meat and what are the procedures.
This must be verified because the Muslim consumer should not shrug away his or her responsibility, saying that the retailer or the certifying agency is saying it is Halal, and therefore they are not responsible.
“This attitude has to go away,” notes Hussaini.
5. This enquiry should be ongoing because every so often a certifying agency may be good today, but then becomes lax for one reason or another. The Muslim consumer should keep inquiring, for example, after every six months
“A vigilant consumer can bring about a respected Halal system and once the system is in place, then we will refine our procedures, we will refine our methods,” says Hussaini. “Until then we must keep inquiring, that way we will keep the certifying agencies on their toes, and they will be cautious, vigilant, and compliant.”