A company in Malaysia says halal certification for its diapers and sanitary napkins will better assure consumers of their safety and quality, but halal consultants question the move.
Bio Integrasi, which positions itself as a “halal hygiene products” pioneer, told Salaam Gateway there may not be issues with the raw materials to manufacture diapers and sanitary napkins but the company is concerned about other aspects of the products.
“When diapers and sanitary napkins are certified by a halal authority, for us it’s JAKIM, Muslims can be better assured that the products have been checked from the point of view of manufacturing, storage, ingredients, packaging etc,” Ahmad Sodiqin Zulfikri, Bio Integrasi’s Halal Executive told Salaam Gateway.
The company will be officially launching its products at halal industry trade fair MIHAS next month.
Speaking to Salaam Gateway in Bahasa Malaysia at the Penang International Halal Expo on Saturday, Zulfikri pointed out that Malaysia has no specific regulations or authorities overlooking diapers and sanitary napkins.
Malaysia’s national-level certifier JAKIM has published Bio Integrasi’s halal credentials on its website, indicating that the certificates are valid through June 15, 2020 for baby and adult diapers and Nov 30, 2020 for sanitary napkins and panty liners.
Halal certification is a voluntary, opt-in system in Malaysia where there is no regulatory requirement for companies to get their products certified.
Halal advisors and consultants see no need for diapers and sanitary napkins to be halal-certified.
“Of all the years that I am in the halal industry, I have never come across halal-certified diapers/sanitary napkins,” Dhaliff G. Anuar, manager for halal industry and integrity services at PwC Malaysia, told Salaam Gateway. He has worked in the halal industry for around seven years in halal certification consultancy, business development and training.
“On a logical basis, tying up with Shariah principles (maqasid), there is no need for diapers and sanitary napkins to go for halal certification as they are made of crude oil derivatives and plant sources,” said Anuar.
He says, however, that JAKIM must have its reasons for approving Bio Integrasi’s halal certification.
“Should it be true that the diaper manufacturing company is certified halal by JAKIM, I believe that JAKIM has made every necessary thought processes and possess a concrete rationale of it,” said Anuar.
JAKIM did not respond to Salaam Gateway’s request for comment.
Hassan Bayrakdar, managing director of Dubai-based halal advisory Raqam Consultancy who has two decades of experience in food and halal compliance, has never seen a similar case.
“There is neither a regulatory requirement nor consumer demand for halal certification of such products,” Bayrakdar told Salaam Gateway.
There have actually been instances of halal-certified diapers and sanitary napkins prior to Bio Integrasi’s, although the company stresses it is the first to receive JAKIM’s halal certification.
Majelis Ulema Indonesia (MUI) has halal-certified diapers, including the popular brand MamyPoko that is manufactured by UniCharm, a Japanese company.
UniCharm said the halal certification was obtained “in an effort to make products available to as many people as possible, so that they can feel assured in using the products.”
FAS, a company based in Italy, received halal certification for its diapers and sanitary napkins in 2015 from the Halal International Authority (HIA), a private certification body. However, this certification appears to be dubious.
HIA’s halal certification for FAS diapers and sanitary napkins was based on standards GSO 993:1999, MS 1500:2009 and CAC/GL-24-1997.
MS 1500:2009 refers to the Malaysian Standard for halal food production, preparation and handling.
Bayrakdar explained that GSO 993:1999 refers to the Gulf Standard for Animal Slaughtering and CAC/GL 24-1997 is the Codex Standard for Use of the Term Halal.
“Basically, none of the above standards can be used to certify diapers or sanitary napkins as halal,” said Bayrakdar.
Bio Integrasi’s Zulfikri said the company’s products have met with Malaysia’s MS2200:2008 Part 1 for cosmetics and personal care products, and MS2200:2013 Part 2 that covers usage of animal bone, skin and hair in consumer products.
Apart from these standards, Bio Integrasi’s products have earned other certifications that attest to their safety and quality standards.
According to the company’s publicity brochures, its diapers also meet ISO 19001:2008: Quality Management System, ISO 14001:2004: Environmental Management System, PHSAS 18001:2007: Health & Safety Management System. The sanitary napkins meet quality management standard ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
But it is the JAKIM halal certification the company is flogging to Muslim consumers, and that explains its participation at the Penang halal expo and intention to also be present next month at MIHAS, Malaysia's biggest halal industry event.
HALAL MARKETING STRATEGY
“Halal Malaysia is viewed highly by overseas markets,” Bio Integrasi executive director Shahrizal Sarip told Salaam Gateway.
It is this good reputation of Malaysia’s halal certification that Sarip is banking on to sell his company’s diapers and sanitary napkins to other Muslim-majority countries.
The aim is to sell domestically for the first year and then make a push into other Muslim countries.
The products are made in China, in partnership with a company near Beijing that has experience making adult diapers for Chinese astronauts, said Sarip, stressing the link to technologically-advanced design and manufacturing.
He said the agreement with the Chinese company, which he declined to name, is for orders of at least three 40 cubic feet containers a month. Each of these containers can carry around 4,000 packs holding 45 diapers each, Sarip estimates.
Bayrakdar considers Bio Integrasi’s halal-certified diapers and sanitary napkins a way of “branding differently” to attract consumers, similar to the use of other labels such as “Organic”, “Free From” or “Non-GMO”.
“Companies are getting their products halal-certified to get a marketing edge in this competitive world rather than for the compliance,” said Bayrakdar.
He cautions this could confuse consumers.
“Recently we found in the UAE market some non-relevant products where [the] “halal” logo is used, e.g. water, energy drinks and nuts, we believe this claim is used for the only reason of “competitive advantages” rather than religion or regulatory requirement for such products,” Bayrakdar added.
Marketing ploy or not, PwC’s Anuar says industry demand for halal certification for “atypical” items bodes well for the halal sector.
“On a positive note, this indicates that halal is actively being sought after by various industry players and it also indicates that there are halal demands for atypical items,” said Anuar, who has heard of companies seeking halal certification for items such as soil fertiliser, printing paper and blood transfusions.
He cites halal-certified pet food as an example of what he says are “real concerns” driving demand.
“Put aside the pet owners’ affection and care of what the cats eat, it is about the household that some Muslim pet owners are concerned about, the contact of impurities around the house should there be one.”
He points out that JAKIM does not open its halal certification for pet food but this is currently allowed in Indonesia.
This then takes the issue of impurities to a different conversation with regards diapers and sanitary napkins.
“Sensitivity-wise, how would it impact the halal logo itself after these diapers and napkins are being used? Excrements wrapped with halal marking on top of them,” Anuar said.
“To my knowledge and experience, public sensitivity and the halal logo’s reception play major roles in the expansion of Malaysia’s halal certification schemes.
“It considers many factors be they short or long term. The halal logo carries Muslims’ trust and it entails heavy responsibilities.”
(Reporting by Emmy Abdul Alim email@example.com; Editing by Seban Scaria)
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