Regulations and Compliance

Pakistan strengthening its halal ecosystem, putting ‘religion first’ in accreditation

by Susan Labadi | 08 May, 2017 | General
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Pakistan strengthening its halal ecosystem, putting ‘religion first’ in accreditation
Photo: Islamic students arrange free food to be distributed among worshippers for breaking fast on the first day of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in Karachi September 25, 2006. REUTERS/Athar Hussain 

Pakistan is not in the limelight to the degree of Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates for leadership of halal industries but it is progressing in respect to strengthening its halal ecosystem, with the recently-established Pakistan Halal Authority (PHA) given regulatory oversight of the country’s halal industries.

The Pakistan Halal Authority Act (pdf) that was gazetted in March last year paved the way for the regulation of all halal imports and exports. The role of PHA is to recommend halal standards, create a single logo to be issued to halal certification bodies (HCBs), and maintain a register of all persons and firms authorized to use the halal logo.

Working with the PHA are key stakeholders in the country’s halal ecosystem Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) that formulates halal standards, and Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC) that is in closest contact with certifiers to ensure those standards are adhered to.

ACCREDITATION

Since 1998, PNAC has created awareness among consumers, industry leaders, and policy makers to bridge the gaps in understanding the need for a comprehensive perspective on halal and its inclusive approach to accreditation. PNAC was established under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of Pakistan, and started accreditation services in 2001 with laboratories and certification bodies, including halal certification bodies (HCBs). The halal certification scheme was only introduced 11 years later in 2012; and to date, five HCBs have been accredited.

Accreditation application is online and annual license fees are about $200 for companies within Pakistan and $500 for those outside of the country.

According to PNAC Director General Ismat Gul Khattak, speaking in mid-April at the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) 19th International Halal Food Conference near Chicago, Pakistan “puts the religion first” in matters of halal.

PNAC PROFILE

Pakistan is a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's Standards and Metrology Institute for the Islamic Countries (SMIIC) for halal accreditation/certification standard and Pakistan’s standards are based on SMIIC’s

PNAC is a member of the International Halal Accreditation Forum for Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) regarding accreditation

Full member of International Accreditation Forum (IAF), International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), Asia Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Coopration (APLAC), and Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (PAC)

Convener of working group on halal in PAC

HALAL STANDARDS

Pakistan’s halal guidelines have been based on reputable existing international standards to facilitate the recognition of the country’s halal certification in the interest of national and international trade.

The halal accreditation process includes working with Shariah scholars as auditors. PNAC has developed 5-day assessor safety courses that are comprised of people from mixed professional backgrounds, including Shariah scholars. Courses are offered in Pakistan and abroad. In the course is a blend of food technology and Shariah scholars who come to understand each other’s perspectives and prepare for becoming qualified auditors.

PAKISTAN HALAL STANDARD

Accreditation body accrediting halal certification bodies (PS: 5241-2013)

Halal food management system requirements for any organization in the food chain (PS: 3733-2013)

General criteria for the operation of halal certification bodies (PS: 4992-2010)

General guidelines for halal cosmetics and personal care products (PS: 5319-2014)

Pakistan standard edible halal gelatin (PS: 247:2013)

In the globally competitive halal meat market, Pakistan exports only a small percentage of its local stock. Total exports in 2016 reached $238 million, a drop of 9.9 percent from $264 million in the previous year. Around 65 percent of Pakistan’s meat exports in 2016 were fresh, chilled or frozen meat of bovine animals, followed by around 30 percent made up of fresh, chilled or frozen sheep or goats.

Data source: State Bank of Pakistan

Khattak explained that Pakistan only manually slaughters, all forms of stunning are prohibited, and production allows enough time to ritually recite the name of Allah (tasmiyah) on each animal.

According to Khattak, Pakistan takes care to respect the condition of workers in stating that “their arms become strained,” as she raised her arms demonstrating what a poultry line worker endures. Only around 1 percent of Pakistan’s meat exports in 2016 were poultry. Almost all chicken meat is reserved for domestic consumption as a cheaper source of protein compared to bovine meats.

TESTING

According to Khattak, although everything produced in Pakistan is halal, about 25 percent of processed foods come as imports whose halal status may be questionable.

The need for testing has become apparent, and religious authorities have stated that the veracity of the processes was in doubt. Processed foods source ingredients from around the world must meet halal criteria for ingredients certification as well as processes used to manufacture, package, store and transport them. Pakistan has testing facilities in Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar.

HALAL-ING HARAM PRODUCTS?

Khattak clarified that Pakistan’s halal standards will not certify flavors using the name and having sensory profiles of a haram product. She gave the example of rum flavor and pork flavor that will not be halal-certified even if ingredients used are halal. Products such as non-alcoholic beer and wine and even a confectionary soft drink beverage named root beer, could never be qualified for halal certification in Pakistan, she said.

Khattak also addressed the issue of using an ingredient such as brewers yeast, which kicked up some controversy in the halal industry as some find utility in using it for its nutritional content and procure it through cultivating it from crops. According to her, microorganisms or their products used in food or food production would need to be produced using halal culture medium. For example, the yeast extract or other derived products from them should not be made from brewers yeast or winery yeast.

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