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Halal Food Authority back in business

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News Analysis |

Halal Food Authority, a probing body put together in 2015 for the task of reassuring that food products sold to local markets were halal, had been rendered dysfunctional a few months after its formation.

To address this serious reservation and to reach out to the international Halal food market, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Rana Tanveer Husain announced that the Pakistan Halal Food Authority (PHFA) will be made functional at the earliest. The PHFA’s main purpose is to promote and enhance trade of halal food products to gain share in the international market, he added.

“Once functional, it [PHFA] will help Pakistan earn precious foreign exchange to strengthen the economy,” the minister said, while chairing an assemblage of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The Halal Food Act deems trading or selling of haram meat illegal in the country, said the Assistant Commissioner. Foreigners, however, are allowed to buy or sell the meat only if they have a legal permit to do so.

The minister, who will also be heading PHFA, said, “The intention of setting up PHFA is not only to promote trade in food, but in medicine and cosmetics too.” In 2015, a bill was passed to form a probing council to ensure that food products and their components conform to Islamic laws. This measure was taken in light of serious concerns raised by health departments, clerics and members of the civil society about haram products being sold to consumers including food products and cosmetics and the hazards that ensued as consequence. The authority was established, but unfortunately it became dysfunctional soon after.

Furthermore, the PHFA, established under the Ministry of Science and Technology, was not acceptable by many, as experts believe that it should either function under the Ministry of Commerce or the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Read more: Pakistan’s Food Industry demands harmonized national standards

The minister told the assemblage that work was underway to formulate the rules and roles of the PHFA and once it was done the body would be fully functional. He said the consumers in Pakistan do not have any platform from where they could guarantee that the ingredients used in certain food products, cosmetics and medicines were halal. Globally, the demand for halal food products is steadily increasing whereas Pakistan has no share in that market.

In 2015, a bill was passed to form a probing council to ensure that food products and their components conform to Islamic laws.

Pakistan has faced numerous bouts of haram meat products being sold to unsuspecting consumers. After reports of donkey meat being sold in Lahore last year, the police in Karachi claimed have recovered over 4,000 hides of the herbivores during a raid on a shop in Gulistan-e-Jauhar Block 12.

The Investigative officer that fronted the raid told a publication that they had recovered a total of 592 bags and each bag contained eight hides.

Read more: Pakistan: One Nation Needs One Food Standard; Why?

As many as 4,736 donkey hides were recovered from the shop while seven people were also arrested. The hides, according to the police, were to be exported to China.

Donkey meat may be cheap but its hides are valued in the international market, especially China, where it has been used for medicinal purpose since medieval times.

The highest numbers of these illicit activities were apprehended in Lahore and Karachi. The Lahore police raided a number of illegal slaughterhouses. The police in Karachi said the citizens of Lahore had been eating the meat of these donkeys while the skins were being recovered in Karachi.

Pakistan has faced numerous bouts of haram meat products being sold to unsuspecting consumers.

In October 2017, Islamabad pitched in. A super store in Super market, which is a posh area, was found selling haram meat. The store was run by a Chinese citizen and was sealed. However, the store was unsealed the very next day.

Assistant Commissioner City Police, Saad bin Asad, raided the store in response to a complaint filed by a customer. He discovered several packets of pork at the store. The store owner was ordered to produce the necessary legal documentation or permits for selling the meat. He was then charged guilty as he did not have any of the required documents.

Read more: “Punjab Food Authority’s crusades inspire KP; Who is next?”

He was fined Rs. 30,000 and all of the meat was confiscated by the police. The Assistant Commissioner then sealed off the store, pending legal action, and summoned the store owner to his office. The commissioner had said that around 20-25 half kg packages of pork were confiscated from the store.

The Halal Food Act deems trading or selling of haram meat illegal in the country, said the Assistant Commissioner. Foreigners, however, are allowed to buy or sell the meat only if they have a legal permit to do so. As mentioned earlier the Chinese store owner did not have the necessary documents, hence the store was sealed.


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