Got halal: Advertisements for halal food on the rise

Published: August 24, 2011

Scientists believe drawing a distinction between halal and non-halal vaccines is a futile endeavour.

ISLAMABAD: A recent advertisement, claiming to be a public-service announcement, features pop-star-turned-televangelist Junaid Jamshed explaining that multinational company Novartis now has a meningitis vaccine that is halal. Jamshed had previously also appeared in an advertisement for Lay’s assuring consumers that the potato chips they were eating were halal.

A spokesperson for Novartis claims the ad wasn’t made because of any pressure and that the pharmaceutical company had always been committed to producing halal-free meningitis vaccines.  He pointed out that in 2010 the meningitis vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline was banned in Indonesia for containing traces of swine products while Novartis’ vaccine was declared halal.

However, scientists believe that drawing a distinction between supposedly halal and non-halal vaccines is a futile endeavour. Dr Saqib Ahmed, a professor of chemistry at the Quaid-e-Azam University, says that the seed stocks for meningitis vaccines were developed in the 1960s in the US and included swine enzymes.  He said that replacing the swine enzymes with bovine enzymes would likely not be successful.

Still, claiming that products are halal has now become a part of the Pakistani advertising landscape. The story of how food and other products in Pakistan began to be marketed as halal is one of religious bullying and, more importantly, big business.

The religious bullying began in July of 2009 when a religious newspaper, Daily Ummat, published over a dozen stories on consecutive days claiming that Lay’s chips used pig fat as flavour enhancers. The reports were then picked up by a couple of television channels, Royal News and Al-Huda TV as well as on some radio stations. The campaign got so vicious, says a spokesman for the company, that Lay’s was forced to run the ad for fear of losing sales. The spokesman said that the newspaper was trying to extort the company and promised to stop the campaign if they were paid off.

In the ad, Lay’s claimed that their chips had been given a halal certificate by the Jamia Ashrafia. Jamia Binoria weighed in on the matter too and declared that Lay’s chips were halal. Other companies followed by getting halal certificates, including K&N, which has certificates from both Jamia Ashrafia and Jamia Naeemia.

The certificates issued by religious seminaries, however, are not recognised internationally. The worldwide halal food industry is estimated to be over $600 billion, a market that Pakistan is only belatedly trying to enter. Over 90% of the global halal trade is in food, but the other 10% involves cosmetics, medicines and other items not usually associated with halal products

Currently, Pakistan has no laws on halal product certification but in March 2011 a team of Malaysian experts in halal certification visited the country to advise the Sindh government on creating a regulatory framework for halal certification. The training process, the Sindh Board of Revenue estimates, will take eight to nine months after which they will be able to provide certificates of their own

According to the Malaysian law, all foods are considered halal except those which come from pigs, animals that are generally considered repulsive like lizards and rats, animals which are amphibious and animals which are carnivores.

The Halal Industry Research Centre (HIRC) is the first and still one of the only groups whose certificates are accepted internationally. An executive at HIRC said that the company usually partners with foreign halal certification companies to provide Pakistani businesses an entry to the international halal market.  Tariq Iqbal Puri, the head of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, believes that getting proper halal certificates could lead to a 20 per cent increase in the export of meat products. The process of declaring a product halal, explained the executive, involves more than just the way meat is cut. Inspectors carry out visits to factories, random spot-checks and test the products in laboratories. The ultimate decision of whether to issue the certificate is decided by a Shariah committee made up of religious scholars.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (26)

  • ali
    Aug 24, 2011 - 11:04AM

    One sided reporting!
    No input from Daily Ummat??
    ET!! Journalism standards need to be raised!!

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  • Noble Tufail
    Aug 24, 2011 - 11:24AM

    the idea of building the roads to progress in presence this of bumps building corporation … is exhausting. “religious bullying” very well said nadir.

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  • faraz
    Aug 24, 2011 - 12:03PM

    Drugs arent food; they arent supposed to Halal or Haram

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  • CB Guy
    Aug 24, 2011 - 12:12PM

    There should be a halal certification set up and all products should be evaluated, there is nothing wrong with it. it will also provide an opportunity for our manufacturers to enter the above mentioned market which is growing like crazy in non-Muslim countries.

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  • Saleha
    Aug 24, 2011 - 12:34PM

    By the way who is Junaid Jamsheed to tell us what to eat and what not!

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  • abc
    Aug 24, 2011 - 1:15PM

    Only EATING pig meat is haram. All other parts of the animal injected into the bloodstream do not raise the question of halal or haram. Please read the translation of the Quran.

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  • HAMMAD ALI HASSAN
    Aug 24, 2011 - 2:19PM

    you want some analysis E.T, that’s why you published this article…

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  • Rational Mind
    Aug 24, 2011 - 3:08PM

    It is the responsibility of Government to setup a Department who should check all the things imported into pakistan to see for Halal or Haram….these departments exist in other Muslim countries…….
    Any one from the Government listening ?

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  • Jameel
    Aug 24, 2011 - 5:09PM

    halal-free meningitis vaccines

    What does this mean? No halal in vaccine?

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  • salman
    Aug 24, 2011 - 5:29PM

    @ saleha junaud is not telleing anyone to eat or not to eat…..you are free to eat pig ,no one will stop you …..

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  • Amer
    Aug 24, 2011 - 5:41PM

    @Rational Mind: You really have a high expectation from this govt don’t you! LOL
    The govt can’t save people from target killers for the last 3+ years…. you want a halal/haram department? Dream on!

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  • ahmed
    Aug 24, 2011 - 7:21PM

    @ Saleha .. Nobody is forcing anyone.. you are just allergic to his beard

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  • Amir
    Aug 24, 2011 - 7:58PM

    Wow, religious fundamentalism has reached the pharma industry. What next, different sects of pharma companies; their own brand of talibanism; their own religious shows?

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  • Sohail
    Aug 24, 2011 - 7:59PM

    Struggling for “halal” food even by haram means…Recommend

  • Khan
    Aug 24, 2011 - 8:10PM

    What has happened to us? Our society has become completely fanatical.

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  • salman
    Aug 24, 2011 - 8:31PM

    @ahmed:
    hahaha…………ahmad “Et will remove your comment and You r under surveillance by ET ” Recommend

  • Aug 24, 2011 - 8:34PM

    I fear people might have missed the point! Anyway Pakistan should move towards proper Halal certification framework because that can sharply increase the export share around the world. Just imagine UK is importing Halal meat from New Zealand!

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  • Farhan
    Aug 24, 2011 - 10:28PM

    @Amir: clearly you have no idea how the world operates and made the typical islamophobic comments that most “educated and enlightened” folks are used to make these days. Halal kosher vegeterian vegan etc. are multi million dollar industries and give people the choice to select products that conform to their beliefs, principles, rituals or life style. Time to get off the hate train!

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  • Shahamat
    Aug 24, 2011 - 11:02PM

    The article says that some organization in Indonesia declared the vaccine as Halal and not Pakistan although Indonesia and Malaysia are considered moderate muslims. No one in the west consider Jews as fanatics although they are more rigid in having Kosher food. It’s the way of life and our projections that determine other’s behaviour towards us. Developing Halal medcines can be one profitble business, why don’t we show our entrepuneurship rather than just proving ourselves liberal. Haram vaccines are something that contains some contents in the finished form or in the manufacturing process. The vaccine declared Haram may have content in one of these parts of the process while Halal may not be having it. Islam permits use of medicines in case Halal is not available but in case of availability only Halal should be used. I hope government will provide Halal vaccines to Hajis, if it is available in Pakistan

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  • Aug 25, 2011 - 6:10AM

    Where ever is my comment? It did not have anything in it that would require the moderator to censor it! -_-

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  • amina
    Aug 25, 2011 - 10:55PM

    Who says only what you eat needs to be Halal? Do you think it is OK to wear a pig skin jacket to the mosque and pray? Do you think the cream you put on your skin to care for it is OK to pray with if it contains pig ingredients? Has anyone seen these halal cosmetics? http://www.onepurebeauty.com

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  • Aug 26, 2011 - 12:14AM

    @faraz:
    Ghomadri told you this?

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  • Aug 26, 2011 - 12:20AM

    @Amir:
    Let me list some pious acts of Pharma industries.

    Anything beside allopathic is crime
    Inventing new disease, recent trend pet mental diseases
    Cure the symptoms not the disease
    high cost of life saving drugs mostly patented
    bribe doctor to prescribe their medicine
    counterfeits
    bribing administration of pharma in passing medicine before any successful trials
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  • Aug 26, 2011 - 3:48AM

    This is beyond ridiculous. Madrasas are now regulating food.

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  • Omar
    Aug 26, 2011 - 8:49AM

    @Bangash:
    Same as Rabbis are controlling food in the west. I see all sorts of Kosher stuff on shelves as well as ads promoting stuff such as including Kosher salt and Kosher pickles.I don’t see people complaining about it in the west.It is all about freedom of information for the consumer to know what is in their food as well as respect for each others beleifs. About time we show respect to choice, information and personal beleifs. Extremism is wrong in either direction.

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  • Maria
    Aug 26, 2011 - 3:27PM

    I totally agree with Omar & Shahamat. See in the west no one puts objection to using Kosher salt then why we as muslims are so weak that we cannot even think positively towards something which is for the benefit for us muslims?. Isnt it good that now all these western pharma companies are getting aware of the fact that the muslim world population needs halal elements as a part of their daily life so to ensure protection and proper vaccination of the people belonging to muslim countries they have come up with halal medicines? i personally think it is something awesome that now more and more pharma companies will become aware of the fact that halal medicines are a need of the muslim world and they need to be cautious in making drugs for them.

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