The Lack of Verification Across the Industry
There are currently thousands of halal meat stores and restaurants in America. The vast majority of these establishments are not verified or are just endorsed by a third party halal website. Likewise, there is currently no regulation or oversight from the government through the USDA to ensure that halal integrity is maintained and to eliminate ‘halal fraud’ and misuse of the term ‘halal.’ This means that the Muslim consumer is left to his own to determine the halal status of a establishment, and it can become a daunting task.
By conducting research at the ground level of halal meat stores and restaurants in America, one does come to the conclusion that there are many deceptive practices taking place in the halal industry in America. There are halal meat stores and restaurants that purchase meat from conventional supermarkets and sell it as ‘halal’ under the interpretation of the food of the people of the book. Many restaurants sell both ‘halal’ and ‘non-halal’ and have so-called partial halal menus. Most of these restaurants do not clearly label which menu items are in fact halal and which are ‘non-halal.’ There are many restaurants which claim that they are using hand slaughtered chicken and are even charging customers for the price of hand slaughtered chicken, whereas in reality it is machine slaughtered. The vast majority of restaurants in America use machine slaughtered
chicken. Restaurants regularly switch their suppliers and buy their meat from questionable sources when they run out on the weekends. Restaurant owners and meat store owners regularly lie and deceive their customers. These are just some of the issues at the store level and many more items can be added to this list. This does not even include the questionable practices of the halal meat suppliers and the distributors.
These incidents and reports definitely establish that there are major issues regarding the reliability of the halal meat stores and restaurants in America. One prominent Muslim scholar was even quoted to have said that the problem has reached such epidemic proportions that it reached the level of absolute truth and cannot be denied. Muslims in America need to acknowledge this situation and take steps to remedy this situation.
Many Muslims hold the view that one should just take the word of the Muslim brother selling the ‘halal’ meat and if the meat turns out to be unlawful, the sin will be on the seller and not on the buyer. Furthermore, they say that the Muslim should not ask about the authenticity of the halal meat and it is wrong to do so. This view does not have a strong basis in Islamic law and is not corroborated by the texts. On the contrary, there is a authentic narration about the esteemed companion, Abu Bakr. His slave would bring him food every day from his earnings and Abu Bakr would regularly enquire as to the source of the income. One day, he forgot to ask and started eating the food. The slave asked Abu Bakr if he knew about the source of this food. Abu Bakr replied in the negative. The slave explained that in the days of ignorance, he would pretend to be a fortune teller and charge people. This food which Abu Bakr was eating was in fact from the income earned through fortune telling after a past customer came and made a delayed payment for the fortune telling services. Abu
Bakr immediately put his finger in his mouth and threw up all the food in his stomach.
The principles derived from this incident is that there is nothing wrong in enquiring about the source of halal food or income using wisdom and tact. This does not mean one is doubting the word of his Muslim brother or purposely offending him. Secondly, Abu Bakr understood that the entire blame and sin is not on the person who feeds or sells unlawful food. Otherwise, Abu Bakr could have simply shrugged it off and said that the sin is on the slave.
Now that we have established the deceptive practices within the halal industry, the next question is how a Muslim can ensure that ‘halal’ products he purchases at a establishment truly meet all the halal requirements. There is a need for a comprehensive halal verification and auditing system to ensure that stores and restaurants behave honestly and sell only 100% halal verified food products. There must be legal commitments as well as full disclosure from the establishment. The Halal Advocates traveled to numerous countries including South Africa, England, Canada, and others who already have a advanced halal certification system in place tracking the halal integrity of a product from ‘farm to fork.’ They have spent time learning this system and done extensive research with lawyers and other professionals to develop a customized national verification system for America.
America is a huge country which spans over thousands of miles. This greatly complicates any efforts to oversee halal establishments spread out throughout the country. The Halal Advocates have been working to
set up local chapters consisting of Islamic scholars, concerned individuals, and volunteers who will implement the verification system locally and coordinate with the national program. This comprehensive
halal verification system aims to bring integrity, transparency, and accountability to the halal industry as a whole and to halal meat stores and restaurants in particular. When one sees the HFSAA certificate at a store, one can be assured that that establishment sells only authentic halal hand slaughtered products and has made a legal commitment to bind itself to approved suppliers. This establishment will provide full access to the Halal Advocates for inspections and invoices.