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INTERVIEW-Dubai Accreditation Center Director on the work of certifying the halal certifier
(Photo of Amina Ahmed Mohammed, Director of Dubai Accreditation Center, courtesy of Dubai Accreditation Center)
A halal certificate is the key to access Islamic and halal markets but where a lot of focus has been on halal certifiers themselves less attention has been paid to the organisations that certify the certifiers – the accreditors. Further, the terms “certification” and “accreditation” are often used interchangeably when referring to the halal certification, by halal certifying bodies, of food and beverages as well as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
In the halal ecosystem, a halal stamp of approval is as good as its weakest link and the accreditors are hence equally important in the halal value chain to maintain trust and confidence in the halal certification system.
Accreditation of halal certification bodies is a formal declaration that the body is competent to certify halal products or services. In Dubai, the Dubai Accreditation Center has the responsibility of ensuring that all certification bodies are competent to fulfil their compliance responsibilities.
Salaam Gateway speaks to Dubai Accreditation Center, which only started accrediting halal certifying bodies in 2014. Amina Ahmed Mohammed, Director, Dubai Accreditation Center and Vice Chair of SMIIC AC (Standards and Metrology Institute for the Islamic Countries Accreditation Committee) explains the importance of accreditation and the role that bodies like DAC play in the halal value chain.
Salaam Gateway: Accreditation is the top of the pyramid of conformity assessment. Dubai Accreditation Centre accredits conformity assessment bodies such as certification bodies, inspection bodies and laboratories. Which are the halal and halal-related bodies, under each of these three, which are accredited by DAC?
Amina Ahmed Mohammed: Because of the sensitivity of the halal conformity business and to ensure the halal supply chain is fully competent to fulfil the needed compliance and trust required by Muslim consumers globally, the DAC accreditation model is extended to consist of all parties involved in the halal chain of traceability which are:
- Halal Certification and Islamic Associations
- Halal Inspection of slaughtering and market (24/7)
- Halal Testing Laboratories
This model was created based on our international experience in the field of accreditation. It is standardised in line with international practices and reflects the proper concept of halal and not just the narrow traditional one that focuses solely on the slaughter of animals.
Salaam Gateway: Does DAC’s jurisdiction extend only to Dubai- and UAE-based bodies?
Amina Ahmed Mohammed: DAC’s Halal accreditation jurisdiction extends to cover both local and international halal certifiers to adopt the vision of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to position Dubai as the Capital of the Islamic Economy. Halal accreditation is one of the pillars to achieve this vision.
Dubai Municipality is establishing an international accreditation centre of a global nature, working in harmony with accreditation bodies of OIC countries to establish a united system though the accreditation committee of The Standards and Metrology Institute for the Islamic Countries (SMIIC AC) in addition to compliance with UAE Halal standards and systems requirements.
Salaam Gateway: Are food and ingredients testing the only requirements for Halal? In the future, do you see the need for other standards to become mandatory for the Islamic Economy?
Amina Ahmed Mohammed: Testing is not the only way to find out if products are halal. All product manufacturing steps are targeted during halal accreditation. We established our system based on the more holistic understanding of the term halal according to international standards as well as Shariah requirements, with a very simple equation of the term halal:
Halal Tayyib = Quality + Safety + Shariah
(يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُواْ مِمَّا فِي الأَرْضِ حَلاَلاً طَيِّباً (سورة البقرة
Of course we still need other types of standards to cover the whole production chain if we hope to strengthen our accreditation system which we established based on the “From Farm – to - Table” concept.
Salaam Gateway: A halal stamp from a certifier is as good as its weakest link. How does DAC upkeep market confidence and trust by ensuring compliance throughout the entire process chain?
Amina Ahmed Mohammed: Granting a halal mark by any halal certifier is a part of the accreditation process. Simply, accreditation is a thorough third-party attestation related to all Halal Conformity Assessment Bodies; it “certifies” that the assessment body is competent to carry out halal conformity assessment.
The technical competence of this certifier depends on a number of factors covering the product life and the steps it takes from farm to table. These include all aspects related to their management system, staff technical competence, experience about product manufacturing processes and finally packing and labeling.
After passing the required steps the certifier is eligible to become an “Accredited Halal Certifier” and can then proceed to grant the halal mark to halal producers.
Salaam Gateway: What are the biggest challenges to ensuring certifier compliance and how are these being overcome?
Amina Ahmed Mohammed: The biggest challenges to ensure certifier compliance is traceability, competence of halal auditors and approved standard testing methods.
For traceability it is not easy to establish a fully controlled system at the outset but it needs true traceability measures and means to allow smooth market control by both government authorities and consumers, as consumers represent the largest control body we can rely on to measure any system’s effectiveness. In addition, a fully operational accreditation system will facilitate the work of accredited certifiers and give their certification to producers; this will lead to a trusted system.
As an example: the halal slaughtering chain of traceability starts with a healthy, well-cared for animal and finishes with meat products that are hygienically treated. These are all check points and part of UAE’s halal accreditation schemes.
Competence of halal auditors is another important issue. We are working to establish an auditor registration platform under the “Halal Academy” as an umbrella for the registration of halal auditors who are working in halal certification and inspection.
Lastly is the issue of approved halal testing methods. There is no standard halal testing methods i.e no single global standard. There are a few methods for pork tracing, trace ethanol in halal food ethanol, etc. In order to strengthen testing methods Quality Assurance DAC launched the first Halal PT program last year and this will be followed by another one for chocolate by the end of this year to ensure approved and trusted testing methods are in compliance with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025 and internationally accepted.
Additionally, we are forming a task force to establish halal testing methods performance criteria, which will hold its first meeting at the beginning of November.
Salaam Gateway: DAC is a member of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and signatory to a few scopes under the IAF Multilateral Recognition Agreement (MLA) to recognise the equivalence of other members’ accreditations to DAC’s own. Are any of these scopes related to halal conformity assessments?
Amina Ahmed Mohammed: No, IAF and ILAC (International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation) do not have a recognition system for halal. However, our international recognition allows us to reach a global level of trust. This makes DAC accreditation an internationally recognised ‘Stamp’ and approved everywhere. This international recognition is integrated and fed back into our halal accreditation system and supports our work and profile as a world class halal accreditation institution.
(Participants of the first peer evaluation training in Dubai, November, 2014. Photo courtesy of Dubai Accreditation Center)
Salaam Gateway: DAC is a Vice-Chairman of the Accreditation Committee of the Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC). What is the progress of the creation of an accreditation scheme for member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries?
Amina Ahmed Mohammed: Since the establishment of SMIIC AC in 2012, DAC is one of seven worldwide recognised accreditation bodies that are members of the committee. We work in cooperation with our esteemed AC members to complete vital tasks to establish a united halal accreditation scheme.
In brief our remit is to: establish the structural model of accreditation both in the OIC and non-OIC region, and finalise relevant documents required for Halal MLA. In addition DAC arranged the first peer evaluation training in Dubai last November to be the core of the Halal MLA system. This training was attended by 18 peer evaluator trainees from OIC accreditation bodies.
Salaam Gateway: Why is it important to have an accreditation scheme for OIC countries and what would be its benefits for certifiers?
Amina Ahmed Mohammed: One recognised accreditation scheme and standard shall provide acceptance of the halal certificate everywhere and eliminate duplication, reduce the Technical Barriers to Halal Trade between OIC and even non-OIC countries by mutual recognition of halal conformity certicates.
Accreditation is a worldwide tool to gain trust in products and services. The use of a well-designed and implemented accreditation process results in an improved quality of goods and services in the OIC and generally in international trade. This is especially true when the accreditation scheme is integrated into a recognised program. These motivate us to proceed with our plans and achieve the vision of a globalised approach “We accredit... World Recognizes”
ABOUT THE DUBAI ACCREDITATION CENTER
The Dubai Accreditation Department (DAC) is the successor of the Accreditation and Metrology Section (AMS) of the Dubai Central Laboratory Department (DCLD). The accreditation function was separated in February 2002 from all conformity assessment activities of the DCLD in order to guarantee the impartiality and independence of accreditation decisions and in order to fulfill the relevant international requirements to achieve international recognition of its services.
In May 2005 the Dubai Accreditation Center (DAC) was established within the Dubai Municipality reporting directly to the director general of Dubai Municipality. Dubai Municipality was re-structured in 2008 and DAC received its upgraded status as a department within DM.
© Copyright SalaamGateway.com 2015
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