Photo for illustrative purposes only. A worker carries a piece of beef meat inside a butchery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Last week France’s Carrefour, Europe’s largest supermarket retailer, said it would start to audit slaughterhouses that supply its own-brand meat and ask them to install cameras in response to rising consumer demand for socially responsible practices. In the same week, Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of halal meat, said the country is moving to a self-monitoring system for food processors, including meatpackers.
We asked two halal consultants to put these developments in perspective for the Islamic economy. Hassan Bayrakdar is a food regulation expert and managing director of Dubai-based halal advisory Raqam Consultancy, and Dhaliff G. Anuar is manager for halal industry and integrity service at PwC Malaysia. Together, they cover the key Islamic economy regions of the Middle East and North Africa and Southeast Asia. Their responses have been edited for brevity and language.
Salaam Gateway: With regards to Carrefour’s announcement, in your opinion, would CCTV monitoring be needed for halal slaughterhouses?
Hassan Bayrakdar: Due to globalization and ever-increasing competitiveness, threat to food safety and quality has increased. There are companies that cut corners to maximize productivity and profit or just to survive in the global market. Hence it is important for the companies sourcing their product from third parties to ensure quality and safety of their product and the supplier audit or second party is the most assured way moving forward.
Supplier audit or second party audit is a type of audit where a supplier is assessed based on the requirement or protocol of the company they are supplying to. Supplier audit or second party audit is nothing new and is a common practice in the industry but how they do it and how frequently determines the result and ongoing safety and quality of the product.
Regarding installing cameras at the facility, this will help as evidence during audit and inspection as well as the companies to monitor their internal processes and resources and take necessary corrective actions. But just installing cameras is not the answer, how you use them and how frequently need to be determined and what actions are to be taken if non-compliance is found either in the process or with the self-monitoring system.
Installing cameras will be useless when the company itself manipulates data and evidence for self-benefit.
Dhaliff G. Anuar: At the moment, I cannot see whether the CCTV issue could become a requirement in halal certification for slaughterhouses. Although most halal-certified slaughterhouses do have surveillance cameras installed on their premises, video footage is never part of an authority's halal inspection.
Halal certification relies on frequent inspection, the effectiveness of a slaughterhouse's halal assurance system, recognized supervisors and complaint reports to ensure the required compassion given to animals upon slaughtering. Malaysia, for example, has introduced the Halal Assurance Management System (HAMS) and made the employment of certified halal supervisors mandatory.
To see camera surveillance becoming a halal requirement in the near future is a little far-fetched.
Plus, halal certification normally tries to avoid making any requirements that will cause extra costs to its applicants i.e. camera surveillance installation.
However, I think halal certification will not argue should other regulations require slaughterhouses to install cameras and will rather benefit from them. The regulators must also think whether the camera surveillance should be streamed live and how would they want to perform an audit on the entire run of handling and slaughtering processes.
Salaam Gateway: Could you explain what self-monitoring means in the food sector? Brazil says the U.S. and other developed countries practice self-monitoring by food processors.
Hassan Bayrakdar: Self-monitoring is, as the name implies, a system wherein the companies will monitor themselves for quality and safety and document all the results of finding, corrective actions, preventive action and improvements. This also can be done during frequent internal audits by the quality team in the company.
Companies do not require any additional effort in this system because as per any Food Safety standard, this is a common practice and specially for certified companies because during annual audit or surveillance they have to represent these records as evidence.
Self-monitoring is common in countries which already have well-maintained and documented high standards of quality and safety, like the U.S. and in Europe. Hence self-monitoring in these countries is not a high risk than usual due to already well-developed and implemented systems followed by the companies. Also, not all companies and not all products in these countries are entitled for complete self-monitoring.
Salaam Gateway: From your experience and knowledge, what are the pros and cons of self-monitoring? How could this affect the production of halal meats?
Hassan Bayrakdar: Meat is a high-risk product and should not be self-monitored. From the halal perspective it is critical and hence all those companies producing such products should be inspected and monitored by an independent third party or at least on a regular basis by the companies purchasing products from such companies.
To reach to the level of self-monitoring the companies should prove through documented, verifiable historical records of continuous and adequate compliance with the regulations and also the country should have adequately-trained food industry workers to support this system.
In light of recent issues in Brazil, the decision by the Agriculture Ministry for implementing a self-monitoring system can potentially further harm the Brazilian industry’s credibility. (Salaam Gateway note: In March 2017 Brazil’s meat industry was hit by a federal probe into alleged bribery and falsified inspection results).
The idea of self-monitoring is good as long as it is an add-on to the regular external or third party inspections and audit and not a substitute for it. Just as you need a certification body to certify a product as halal because a company just cannot claim its meat is halal, similarly the company needs a third party to verify that the company is adhering to adequate quality and safety principles and meeting the minimum requirement. Without any certification, similarly you cannot claim yourself to be adhering to best safety and quality practices unless approved by an independent third party.
As per all the halal standards and certification processes globally, inspection or audit by an external third party is mandatory or done on a periodic basis.
To our knowledge no halal slaughterhouse is self-monitored.
Dhaliff G. Anuar: When it comes to halal certification, I believe it is not going in that direction.
Halal certification started from consumers' demand on self-claimed halal products to be verified by trusted bodies (Islamic institutions). From having random Islamic institutions to verify halal products, it evolved into halal certification bodies that focus on halal verification.
Halal lends itself to enforcement by external independent agencies. Taking the food industry as an example, it is a common practice and regulation by many countries, that food companies must possess GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) or HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) certificates. These are all monitoring controls by external independent parties and they clearly denounce the efficiency of self-monitoring.
Yes there are benefits of self-monitoring, like the ease of standards compliance and being bureaucracy-free but the possibility of conflict of interest is there.
When we talk about halal meat, the scenario is slightly different from the commercial meats that are sold in grocery stores. In some territories halal meats are sold in smaller shops or available in stores by season. However, when it comes to the international market, halal meats would be disconnected from any self-monitoring regulations as halal certification is a priority.
As a matter of fact, we have seen active growth of halal certification bodies around the world and there are some halal agencies being invited cross-border to certify halal meats, disregarding any local regulation on food safety.
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