Halal mark will set the world standard

The UAE’s farm-to-fork guidelines put us in the international business of certification

Halal certification is important for imported meat products in the UAE. Asmaa Al Hameli / The National
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When standing in a grocery store, staring at a selection of steak, the political and sociological aspects of importing food might not be the first thing that comes to mind. We are fortunate to enjoy an abundance of food options. The UAE imports food from all over the world and for meat products, it looks chiefly to Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.

As a Muslim country, we want halal food and have created a set of standards designed as a new benchmark. The halal mark covers everything from farm to fork in the fast-growing Islamic food industry. As The National reported yesterday, food imports from Australia and New Zealand will be the first to be subject to the new standards. Within two years, the UAE wants to ensure that all imported food will adhere to its strict halal standards. These are currently backed by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 countries and aims to be the collective voice of the Muslim world on many issues.

Clearly, the halal mark is a vital development. But it could also propel the UAE into the position of brand leader in the global certification business. Halal food imports into the GCC are projected to reach $53.1 billion (Dh195bn) by 2020 and this is only one slice of the global halal food industry, which is estimated to be worth US$2.26 trillion (Dh8.30tn) by 2018.

By setting clear halal certification standards, the UAE will help lead the halal food industry as it continues to grow. The halal mark must become as assured a guarantee of quality and process as the European Union’s now-familiar and trusted oval stamps, which are called identification and health marks. They detail the processing country and facility and the letters EC for European Community. As is well known, it was the industrialisation of food production in the 19th century that made consumers more reliant on food labels as a key source of information in making purchases. Trademarks provided some quality assurance but regulation was needed to prevent misleading and fraudulent labelling. The relevant statutes on branding were only passed in the early twentieth century, which gives the certification stamp its authority and desirability. In a sense then, the halal mark is really no different from the strict guidelines placed on the importation of food into the European Union or the United States.