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'Right and duty' to know your food

International cases of contamination of halal food have brought into focus the need for consumers to be aware of halal rules and regulations.

International cases of contamination of halal food have brought into focus the need for consumers to be aware of halal rules and regulations.

This month, the UK's food standards agency was informed by the country's justice ministry that a number of meat pies and pastries supplied to prisons in England and Wales were labelled and served as halal but contained traces of pork DNA.

In the United States late last month McDonald's and one of its franchise owners agreed to pay US$700,000 (Dh2.5 million) to members of the Muslim community to settle allegations that a Detroit-area restaurant falsely advertised its food as being prepared according to Islamic dietary law.

McDonald's and Finley's Management agreed to the tentative settlement, with the money to be shared by the Dearborn Heights resident Ahmed Ahmed, a Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and lawyers.

"Such instances of food contamination and mis-selling are worrying and at the same time unacceptable to any Muslim irrespective of the country or region. Such incidents would have offended and distressed a large number of Muslims across the world," says Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, the director-general of Expo Centre Sharjah, which is the venue for the Halal Food Middle East exhibition at the end of this year.

"Several times such instances are reported even when there are clear regulations for food establishments to abide by while handling and selling pork products."

Mr Midfa says the Halal Middle East trade fair, from December 16 to 18, helps to educate the Muslim community on how to ensure that what they consume is genuinely halal.

"Consumers need to be aware of the halal norms governing the system for preparing and serving food products for example, in case of meat, how animals are slaughtered, labelled, stored, refrigerated, cooked and served," he says.

"Not just consumers but retailers, suppliers and restaurants, too, need to be aware that people have a right to know what food they are eating and it is their duty to describe their products correctly," adds Mr Midfa.

business@thenational.ae

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