Pakistan takes steps to boost halal exports


Gelatine-based sweets and packets of chicken soup that fall foul of halal laws are disappearing from Pakistan's shop shelves as the country looks to clean up its Islamic food credentials to boost exports to rich Gulf states.

At the start of the year, the government published a list of around 20 imported food products it said were not halal, or permitted under Islamic law. Shops in Pakistan, an Islamic republic where 97 per cent of the population are Muslims, already do not stock pork or alcohol – with a few extremely rare exceptions for foreigners and the small Christian minority. Now the government wants to crack down further on products using alcohol and pork derivatives as ingredients. So amongst other things, Pop-Tarts are off the shelves in many stores, along with imported jelly, sweets and several European brands of chicken soup.

They have been found to contain ingredients banned in Islam such as wine or gelatine derived from pork, or extracts from chickens not killed in accordance with Koranic doctrine.

So far, there has been no extra obligation on shopkeepers to pull products from the shelves, but some have decided to act. "We heard about the new rules and decided not to take any chances," said one shopkeeper in Islamabad. Other shopkeepers are putting up signs warning customers to check the ingredients of imported products carefully before buying.

A draft law due to be scrutinised by lawmakers in the coming months plans to sort out which products are halal and which are not, and set up an inspection service. The aim is to create a Pakistani Halal Authority with the goal of boosting food and agricultural exports to wealthy Gulf states.

Pakistan has been undergoing a process of Islamisation since the late 1970s, but it is a late arrival to the international market for halal products that has been growing in recent years and is estimated to be worth up to $700 billion worldwide.

"Now there is awareness about (halal), people go through the composition, the contents. Earlier, the awareness was not there, nobody was aware of this non-halal contents," said Mian Ijaz, a senior official at the Ministry of Science and Technology. The science ministry is taking the lead on the bill as it has laboratories for testing products.  (AFP)

For information on the rise of halal food in Germany, click here.