Halal monitoring authority
HMA Media Corner
HMA Featured Presentation
December 7th 2020: Nasser Deeb, Show Director of Halal Expo Canada, discussed with Sheikh Omar Subedar, COO of Halal Monitoring Authority (HMA) about the #halalcertification standards, its guidelines and regulations in Canada. This webinar is perfect for business who wants information on how to get certified! Points of discussion:
▶️Halal Certification in Canada overview
▶️ Halal Certification Regulations
▶️How do I get certified? Types of certifications for local and international
▶️Protecting the integrity of Halal
▶️Future plans for HMA
HMA Canada in the News
Local news articles
(June 5, 2014) Concerns in the Muslim community that the Halal products they are buying are not properly certified leading to many purchasing fake labelled products without knowing it. TORONTO – Canada’s growing Halal food industry has made it an attractive target for fraud – something that leaders in Canada’s Muslim community hope to end.
“Halal is really important to uphold a Muslim’s spirituality, the acceptance of our worship in the eyes of God is dependent on it, that we’re only consuming Halal,” says Omar Subedar, a Toronto-area imam who serves as the secretary general and official spokesperson of the Halal Monitoring Authority. Subedar says that the inability of meat producers and abattoirs to meet the rising demand for Halal meat, coupled with a lack of oversight opened the door for exploitation. “As the Muslim community grows here in Canada, and specifically the GTA, you’re going to see a lot of people now demanding Halal products,” says Subedar. ” There are people that do feel they can take advantage of this.” Subedar says he was first tipped off to the scams years ago by sources inside the meat producing itself. At first he was skeptical of the information, thinking it was merely an attempt discredit the competition while promoting their own product. After some initial digging, Subedar and his peers organized a task force that carried out several investigations over a four-month period in 2004.
“We came across a lot of things that made us lose our sleep,” Subedar says.
In one particular investigation, involved a quail abattoir that produced Halal meat exclusively for a single client. Knowing this, a distributor began sticking his own “Halal” labels on non-Halal meat leaving the abattoir. “He slapped it on and next thing you know, when we were doing our investigations in all of these supermarkets, which grocery stores that carry halal products, lo and behold, that stuff is there and people are buying it.” Subedar says that revelations from the investigation led to the formation of the HMA, which maintains a comprehensive listing of Halal-certified producers, brands and restaurants. The next step for Subedar and his fellow imams is to create an official, national governing body to regulate the certification of Halal products. Source: http://globalnews.ca/news/1376913/muslim-community-cracking-down-on-fake-halal-foods/
Globe and Mail Update
October 25, 2007 at 7:59 PM EST
The figures are impressive: There are about 800,000 Muslims in Canada—a number that’s expected to jump to roughly 1.2 million by the end of the decade. And the market for halal meat—which is prepared and killed according to Islamic law—is already worth more than $214 million a year. Yet when it comes to eating out, it’s slim pickings for observant Muslims. Those looking for a quick bite are relegated to either small ethnic restaurants or a rather incongruous option: fried chicken, southern style.
Popeyes Chicken & Seafood has been serving halal meat at its more than 30 Canadian outlets—all of them in the Toronto area—for well over a decade. Head office in Atlanta is reluctant to talk about it, however, and the company doesn’t promote the fact in its corporate advertising. Thanks solely to word of mouth, the chain—which had revenues of $153 million (U.S.) in 2006—has a dedicated following in the community. One Toronto franchisee says sales take a downturn during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sun-up to sunset.
Dixy Chicken, meanwhile, is all halal and proud of it. The chain was started by British entrepreneurs Amjad Ali and Abid Mahmood in 1986, and so far it has more than 100 fried-chicken franchises in the U.K., along with a few in Norway, India, Syria and Brunei. It’s moving into the U.S. this year. No plans have been announced for Canada, although it’s safe to assume Muslim Canadians would embrace some new options. In 2005, the government of Alberta surveyed Muslims across the country, in search of new markets for the province’s beef farmers. Three-quarters of respondents said they’d eat out more often if more restaurants put halal options on the menu. The problem, says Omar Subedar, spokesman for the Toronto-based Halal Monitoring Authority, is that it’s easy to slap the word “halal” on your restaurant’s sign without actually living up to the designation. “There’s huge demand for halal,” says Subedar, “but it’s expensive, and there’s not enough supply—not exactly music to franchisees’ ears.” There’s even talk that Popeyes isn’t truly halal these days. Still, Subedar has good news for Muslim diners: A foreign-owned halal chain is now looking at the Canadian market. He wouldn’t give specifics, but it’s a good guess there’ll be fried chicken somewhere on the menu.
Air Canada sends mixed meal message, Airline doesn’t meet dietary restrictions
SIKANDER Z. HASHMI
STAFF REPORTER – Toronto Star
The next time Imtiyaz Khatri flies Air Canada, the most he’ll do is enjoy the sight and aroma of his “Muslim meal” without ever tasting it.
If he bothers to order it.
Like other devout Muslims, Khatri — a Toronto businessman and frequent flyer — doesn’t consume meat unless it’s from ritually slaughtered animals. But he is getting mixed messages from Air Canada on whether the airline’s meals meet strict Islamic dietary requirements and are halal (Arabic for permissible).
Khatri says he called Air Canada last week and was told by a manager that its Muslim meals don’t contain alcohol or pork.
But when the Toronto Star contacted the airline, a spokesperson said Muslim meals were also free of animal fat, beef and veal.
“We do offer chicken and I think the current rotation offers fish,” she said.
Most Muslims consider chicken — like beef, veal and lamb — to be halal provided the meat is from ritually slaughtered animals. Fish is always halal.
But the spokesperson said Air Canada’s meals are “Muslim-style,” and not halal. The airline met with two community leaders — Dr. Abbas Moledina and Dr. Liyakat Takim — in 1999 to ensure meals would be “appropriate,” she said.
“They were very happy with what we were able to come up with.”
But Takim, now a professor at the University of Denver, says that is not so. In 1994 and 1995, as imam of the Ja’ffari Islamic Centre in Richmond Hill, Takim took the initiative to get Air Canada to offer halal meals. He worked with an airline representative, sampling various meal offerings.
But it never led to anything, Takim said. “(They) just wasted my time.”
In 1998 or 1999, Takim contacted Air Canada again, to no result. “I felt Air Canada couldn’t be bothered,” he said.
Dr. Abbas Moledina also denies ever giving the stamp of approval to Air Canada’s Muslim meals. The self-described “modest Canadian Muslim citizen” — who insists he’s not a “community leader” — said he contacted the airline to complain about Muslim meals not being halal.
The same Air Canada spokesperson, reached a second time, wouldn’t comment on what the men had to say, but stated that chicken is not part of the Muslim meals, and added that the airline is always open to receiving feedback from customers.
The Star then contacted an Air Canada reservation agent and asked if the Muslim meals on Air Canada are halal. “Apparently yes,” she replied, “they are 100 per cent.”
Khatri doesn’t buy it. “101 per cent, I don’t trust Air Canada,” he said.
Air Canada should get its meals certified by religious scholars, said Sheikh Omar Subedar, head of the halal department of the Canadian Council of Muslim Theologians, an organization representing more than 100 Islamic scholars in Canada.
Muslim consumers “should demand” to know if the food they are served is up to halal standards, he said.
The head of an American halal certification agency says Air Canada is typical of the industry. “There is no airline in North America offering halal meals,” said Dr. Munir Chaudry of the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, which has a Canadian branch office in Oakville.
Muslim travellers are offered better selection on other foreign carriers. British Airways offers Muslim meals with halal meat that are free of pork, pork byproducts and alcohol, according to the airline’s website.
Air Canada, like most airlines, offers a variety of special meals, including kosher, Hindu, Oriental, and both lacto-ovo and non-dairy vegetarian meals.
The sign says halal, but is it really?
A Muslim not-for-profit organization says that even though meat might be advertised as halal, that doesn’t ensure it is slaughtered according to Qur’an guidelines. And the Halal Monitoring Authority admits its growing influence on halal food has upset some businesses.
“In the process of establishing this organization and growing rapidly, in a number of years, we are making enemies,” said Imam Yusuf Badat of the monitoring agency.
The monitoring authority was formed as a branch of the Canadian Council of Muslim Theologians after a group of imams toured the country to inspect halal slaughterhouses, abattoirs and meat processors in 2004. Some were registered with U.S. halal certifying bodies; many just purported to sell halal products.
What they found astounded them, Badat said – some of the men doing the slaughtering did not recite the name of Allah at the time of the slaughter, while others were not Muslim. Some used mechanical blades to cut the meat; others contaminated it with non-halal meat.
In Arabic, the word “halal” means “lawful” or “permitted.” The universal term refers to anything allowed by sharia – Islamic law grounded in the Qur’an.
In 2006, the HMA began a full-fledged effort to monitor halal slaughtering practices, encouraging consumers – namely, members of their congregations – to buy meat products certified by the agency. It invited businesses to join for a price: $13.50 an hour for slaughterhouses, abattoirs and meat processors, and between $75 to $150 a month for restaurants, butchers and manufacturers of nonmeat products.
“Upon the demand of the consumer, the plants, one after another, started applying to be recommended by our organization to prepare halal products,” said Badat.
Badat said the monitoring authority’s fees only cover its costs, and that the extra expenses for halal businesses should only result in a three to four cent increase for the consumer. Anything more than that, he said, is “ill-practice.”
According to its website, 14 businesses are registered with the monitoring authority. Badat stressed that joining is optional. “We don’t ask anyone to be certified,” he said.
Akbar Ali Badeshah, owner of Lindsay Zabiha Meat Packers in Sunderland, says the demand for HMA products, coupled with fees he cannot afford, has hurt his business. He usually runs his slaughterhouse two days a week. “Now this week my plant is closed,” he said yesterday. “I don’t have any business.”
Badeshah said his wholesale customers were demanding he be certified by the authority, because their customers were following the advice of their imams. He said HMA was charging him $1,500 a month, the cost of two days a week of supervision, plus administrative costs – more than he was able to pay, especially because his 11-year-old son has been sick and needs expensive medicine. He says he reached an deal with the agency to pay them when he could, but Badat said no such deal was made.
Badeshah’s certification was withdrawn last week because he was not able to pay the money owed.
Eliss Kontos, owner of Mr. Greek Meat Market on Danforth Ave., recognizes that HMA certification is pricey. “A lot of people don’t want to become members because of the cost,” he said.
Kontos said he pays about $500 a month to the agency, the cost of having an inspector supervise the slaughter of approximately 2,000 lamb, 100 cattle and 100 calves.
Kontos said he is happy with what the agency is doing, and that his sales have gone up because of consumer demand. He said his customers “feel better, 100 per cent reassurance that everything is slaughtered properly.”
But Kontos admitted his profit margin for halal products has gone down due to the added expenses.
While the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitor all slaughterhouses for health and safety standards, they do not have specific halal licences or regulations.
Ravi Rai, a red meat program specialist with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said the HMA is listed with them as a monitoring authority, which gives them permission to label meat halal. But Rai said the government does not regulate the practices of these bodies and that he doesn’t know how much HMA charges members.
Susan Murray, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said some slaughterhouses are registered with the provincial government as being halal, but that that “is not a specific designation in our point of view.”
“We would know that they say that’s what they’re doing,” she said. “We’re not experts at halal slaughter.”
Badat said the imams consulted with the provincial and federal governments before establishing the agency. “They know what we are and what we are doing,” he said.
Badat said the HMA can barely keep up with demand for its services, thanks to a growing Muslim population and increased awareness about halal practices.
Some halal consumers say that according to the Qur’an they are only responsible for eating what they have been told is halal meat.
“It says halal meat in the sign,” said Melica Abdu. “If they lie to me, that’s their problem.”
Ali Akhavan walks past rows of frozen and freshly cut pieces of meat in his Mediterranean and Middle Eastern grocery store, Marché Akhavan, in Notre Dame de Grâce.
Chicken wings, cubes of lamb, thick cuts of beef: The labels say “halal” – which means “permissible” in Arabic – but Akhavan isn’t certain whether Islamic guidelines were properly followed when the food was prepared.
“We go on trust,” he said as shoppers strolled by the counters of spiced nuts and marinated olives behind him. “We don’t have inspectors.”
Halal rules govern how food is prepared in accordance with Islamic theology, and it’s a lucrative business: Global sales of halal products are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
Unlike Montreal’s Jewish community, which has a long-established kosher monitoring system, there are few safeguards in the city to ensure Muslim consumers are getting food that respects their dietary restrictions.
Reports abound of companies misleading consumers by falsely labelling their products halal to take advantage of the growing global market.
Members of the Muslim Council of Montreal are seeking to instill some confidence by adopting an island-wide uniform labelling system for halal products.
For years, Montreal Muslims went to small, family-run butchers in the community who would slaughter animals themselves and could be trusted, said Salam Elmenyawi, an imam who is president of the Muslim Council of Montreal.
But the community is growing fast and there aren’t enough small stores to meet the demand for trusted halal food, he said.
Elmenyawi said he’s been in contact with larger supermarkets in the city that want to start offering more halal products, but he’s concerned that those who are giving halal certification don’t have enough resources to follow up with regular inspections, which leaves room for fraud.
“The issue is not really for giving certification, it’s how to take it away,” Elmenyawi said.
Members of the Muslim council floated the idea of lobbying the city of Montreal along with Quebec’s Agriculture Department to arm government food inspectors with the authority to fine stores caught carrying false halal products.
They also discussed the idea of starting a halal certification body recognized by the Muslim council.
Hélène Trépanier of the Agriculture Department said its inspectors are present for halal slaughters in meat facilities, but have no authority to certify the meat is being properly handled according to strict Islamic rules.
But Trépanier said there is room in Quebec law to accommodate a system for a specific type of food certification.
To get the process moving, Elmenyawi said, the Muslim council will have to prepare a proposal for Quebec.
Another idea discussed by the imams is to work more closely with the Toronto-based Halal Monitoring Authority, which claims to be the only Canadian-owned and operated halal monitoring organization and is recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The Toronto organization, a branch of the Canadian Council of Muslim Theologians, toured the country in 2004 and inspected about 35 slaughterhouses, meat processing plants and butchers that claimed to produce or sell halal food.
They discovered the majority were not fully complying with halal guidelines, said Yusuf Badat, an imam with the organization.
In response, the Halal Monitoring Authority decided to start certifying food products, not facilities, Badat said.
A company that wants to be certified halal by the organization must pay $13.50 an hour for an inspector to watch the entire slaughtering process every time an animal is killed.
If a butcher wants to be certified, all the meat sold must be certified, too.
The butcher must also pay between $75 and $150 a month for daily inspections.
Badat said that 100 businesses, mostly in Ontario, are inspected and certified by the Halal Monitoring Authority.
The Toronto Star reported last month that some meat producers in that city were complaining that the costs imposed by the Halal Monitoring Authority were hurting their profits.
But Elmenyawi said demand in the Quebec region will be high enough to mitigate the extra expenses producers must incur.
Saad Mouaddab, owner of Délices Al-Manar, one of three meat companies inspected by the Halal Monitoring Authority in Quebec, said that it’s extra work to fill out the documents and deal with the inspectors, “but it’s worth it.”
“(Other businesses) want to get into the market, it’s about money,” Mouaddab said. “They don’t care about the religious and spiritual aspects behind it.”
“But if we say it’s halal, we have to make sure it’s halal.”
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What Is Halal?
The following animals are halal:
– All domestic birds, including chickens, ducks, turkeys
– All cattle
– All buck, including deer, hare and rabbit
The above animals are halal only if they are slaughtered in the following manner, excluding fish and locusts:
– The slaughterer must be Muslim.
– The slaughterer must invoke the name of Allah upon the animal to be slaughtered by reciting: “Bismillahi Allahu Akbar” (in the name of God Almighty, the greatest) or at the very least recite “Bismillah,” and kill the animal right after recital without significant delay.
– The slaughterer’s knife must be extremely sharp so the animal suffers minimal pain.
– The slaughterer must sever the following arteries: trachea, esophagus, and both jugular veins. If it is not possible to do so, then he must sever at least three.
– The slaughterer must conduct the slaughter manually and swiftly. The knife must not be lifted before the cut is complete and the cut must be below the Adam’s apple.