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Law and Bills Digest Section
This quick guide provides an overview of Halal
food certification in Australia.
Halal is an Arabic word that means permitted or lawful in
Islam. It is both an umbrella term used in relation to all food products, and a
term that refers to a method of livestock
slaughtering consistent with Islamic rites.
What is permitted?
All foods are Halal unless they are Haram (which
means prohibited or unlawful). For example, all fruit and vegetables are Halal unless
they are contaminated with Haram substances or the production plant contains
What is doubtful?
Mashbooh is an Arabic word that means doubtful or questionable. In
relation to Halal guidelines, Mashbooh products cannot be clearly classified as
either Halal or Haram without more information. For example, food products that
contain ingredients such as enzymes, gelatine, emulsifiers and flavours are
Mashbooh because the origin of these ingredients is not known. Generally,
Muslims will avoid eating Mashbooh foods.
What is prohibited?
Food products that are considered Haram include pork and its
by-products, animals with fangs, Halal animals improperly slaughtered, lard,
alcoholic drinks and foods contaminated with the aforementioned. More
information about Halal and Haram foods can be found at:
Why is food certified as Halal?
Food certification organisations ensure that strict
standards are met by producers or manufacturers before they are entitled to
label their food with the relevant certification trade mark. Non-religious
examples of certification standards include those for organic food, free
range eggs, and perhaps the best known, the Australian Made and Produced
certification. Producers and manufacturers obtain certification to more
effectively market their products to consumers.
As with other food certification
systems, to be considered Halal food must meet the rules laid down by the
organisation from which the food producer or manufacturer is seeking
certification. Once the relevant standards are met, the food can then be
packaged and marketed as having been certified as Halal by that organisation.
The global Halal market has been estimated at 1.6
billion consumers and may be worth up to US$1.6 trillion per annum by 2018.
Food certified as Halal by an Australian certifying organisation is able to
compete in the overseas market and so create export opportunities. For example,
the Senate Economics References Committee noted, in a 2015 report on third
party certification of food, that:
Halal certification is required for [red meat] exports to
Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait,
Bahrain, Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. These are significant
markets for the meat industry and third party certification is instrumental in
providing exporters access to these markets.
In Australia, certification schemes reflect a growing number
of consumers to whom it is important that the food they eat complies with their
religious beliefs. More broadly, though, certification gives confidence to a
growing number of consumers who are concerned about the foods they eat and want
more information about the ingredients contained in that food on the relevant
Who can certify food as Halal?
As with other food certification systems, a range of
different certifying organisations exist.
In relation to Halal certification, the Department
of Agriculture and Water Resources website sets out a list of Australian
organisations that are able to certify red meat and red meat products as Halal
for export to certain overseas markets. In addition, a number of Halal
certification organisations also operate within Australia (listed in Appendix A), offering Halal certification services to Australian domestic food
producers and manufacturers.
What is the certification process?
As with other certification process, Halal certification
follows a series of broad steps:
- The relevant food producer or manufacturer applies to the
relevant certifying organisation (for example, Halal Australia). This usually
involves providing detailed information about the raw materials, ingredients
and additives, and the manufacturing process.
- An inspection of the manufacturing site is then conducted by an
appropriately qualified person on behalf of the certifying organisation to
determine whether all the relevant requirements are consistently being met, and
a report prepared. The applicant may be required to alter their manufacturing
processes or ingredients, or to provide further information about their supply
- A certification agreement is then concluded between the applicant
and the certifying body, and Halal accreditation or certification is awarded
for a period of time.
A flow chart outlining an example of a domestic Halal
certification process chart is available here, whilst an example of the Halal certification
process for exports is available here.
Does Halal certification increase
costs to consumers?
The cost of obtaining Halal certification varies depending
on the product involved, the organisation from which certification is sought
and whether the goods are for export or domestic consumption. However, the fees
are often modest.
For large-scale manufacturing the cost of certification in
the context of overall manufacturing, advertising and distribution costs has
little, if any, impact on a product’s price. For example, in relation to Halal
certification, the Senate Economics References Committee (the Committee) noted,
in a 2015 report on third party certification of food that ‘evidence received
by the committee overwhelmingly suggests that Halal certification does not
result in increased food prices’.
What are certification funds used
The funds raised from certification applications can be used
for a variety of purposes beyond the payment of usual business expenses such as
salaries, taxes and superannuation. This can include providing funds for a
variety of charitable and community causes. The Committee noted, in a 2015
report on third party certification of food, that ‘evidence indicates that
there is no direct link between Halal certification in Australia and terrorism
In 2015 the Committee conducted an inquiry into, and
reported on, third party food certification. As part of that process, issues around
Halal certification were examined. In relation to Halal certification, the
Committee made the following recommendations:
- the government, through the Department of Agriculture, consider
the monitoring and compliance of Halal certification of meat for export; and
becoming the sole signatory on the government Halal certificate
- the government, through bilateral and multilateral forums,
promote greater acceptance of a 'whole-of-country', government-led Halal
- the government consider requiring that Halal certification of
goods in the domestic market comply with the standard agreed for export
- the Halal certification industry consider establishing a single
Halal certification authority and a single national registered certified
- meat processors clearly label products sourced from animals
subject to religious slaughter.
At the time of writing, it does not appear that any of the
above recommendations have been implemented.
Appendix A: Australian Halal
The selection of Halal certification bodies below is derived
from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ list
of Islamic organisations that have an Approved Arrangement with the Department
for the certification of red Halal meat and red meat products for export:
In addition to the above, other entities
certify Halal products for the domestic market, such as the Islamic Council of Queensland Inc.
The Quick Guide was produced with research assistance by Jolanta Olender and
Abraham Williamson, interns from the Australian National University College of
Law. The author thanks Paula Pyburne, Senior Researcher, Law and Bills Digest,
for her input.
Senate Economics References Committee, Third
party certification of food, The Senate, Canberra, December 2015, p. 6,
accessed 16 June 2016.
Ibid., p. 21.
Ibid., p. 27.
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