Federal rules arrive on halal food claims

Any food marketed in Canada as certified halal in its labeling or ads will have to include the name of its halal certifying body, starting next month.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said Wednesday the two-year grace period it launched in 2014 for halal labelling and advertising requirements will end April 4. Past that date, all halal claims must meet the new standards.

CFIA “will take compliance and enforcement actions if the requirements are not met,” the agency said Wednesday.

Food deemed halal follows standards laid out in the Qur’an, the principal scripture of Islam, for food preparation and storage, foods’ ingredients, materials coming in contact with food, and methods of livestock slaughter.

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The regulation bans anyone from using — in labelling, packaging, advertising or selling a food — the word “halal” or any letters of the Arabic alphabet or any other word, expression, sign, symbol, mark, device or other representation “likely to create an impression” that a food is halal, unless the name of the person or body that certified the food as halal is indicated.

“Like all claims, halal claims must be truthful and not misleading, both before and after” the deadline, CFIA said.

CFIA also emphasized the new rules do not affect food safety and halal products sold in Canada “must meet Canada’s stringent food safety standards.”

The government said in 2014 it will be up to a consumer to decide if the requirements of a given certifying body meet his or her expectations for halal.

CFIA won’t establish federal standards for what can be labelled as halal, nor any requirements for becoming a halal certifying body.

Increased demand for halal food products is expected to lead to an increased number of businesses in the market and products marketed as halal, the government said at the time.

However, the government added, “it is difficult for consumers of halal food to make informed purchase decisions without knowing the standard used in certifying the food product as halal.”

Also, “there are various interpretations of Islamic law which makes reaching a consensus amongst Canadian Muslims as to what constitutes halal difficult to achieve.”

During consultations in 2010, the government said, stakeholders in food processing and the Muslim community indicated they would have ideally wanted halal regulated through a standard.

But stakeholders also recognized the government can’t enforce a halal standard “without consensus among the stakeholders themselves as to what constitutes halal.” — AGCanada.com Network

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