Religious dietary requirements play an important role in the lives of adherents of different religions and likewise, the consumption of Halaal food and drink and abstention from Haraam is of paramount importance in the lives of Muslims. The injunctions of the Holy Qur’aan and Hadith of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam clearly guides us in terms of what is Halaal and Haraam and this guidance assists us with the modern dilemma of determining what we can or cannot consume.
Although food preservation has been an integral part of human survival, the modern era has left us with further complexities to face in the form of food technology and the numerous different ingredients currently in use. Genetic modification of seeds and the enhanced developments in this field does not help the situation much either.
It is therefore fitting that the 1st International Conference on Halal Food Control held in Saudi Arabia, hosted by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, took place from the 12th to the 15th of February 2012 at the InterContinental Hotel in Riyadh. The conference was attended by Moulana Abdul Wahab Wookay on behalf of the National Independent Halaal Trust (NIHT).
The focus of the conference was on the scientific advances in food production and manufacture and the papers to be delivered were classified into twelve main sessions. The topics covered were Lawfulness of Food Additives, Analysis methods of Halal food, Control of Halal food, Halal food standards, Halal certification, Countries experience in Halal food control, Development of Halal industry. A number of speakers described their experiences of Halaal certification in the countries they lived in whilst others spoke on research conducted in the fields of slaughter. The scientific papers which were delivered by experts in the field gave an insight into current developments in food science as well as future initiatives.
Dr Mian Nadeem Riaz, the director for the Food Protein R&D Centre and head of the Extrusion Technology programme at Texas A&M University presented a paper on Halal Food Additives Control in which he defined the usage of additives in food manufacture. “Food additives are substances added to food for many purposes including preserving flavour or improving taste and appearance,” he said. He emphasized the dangers food additives posed to the Halaal status of foods as sometimes the additives are derived from Haraam sources.
A captivating paper was delivered by Dr Maqusood Ahmed who is an Assistant Professor at the King Abdullah Institute for Nanotechnology. His topic, “Nanotechnology in the Food industry: A Future Technology”, gave an insight into future advances in food science as well as medicine. He emphasized that owing to their unique physico-chemical properties, nanoscale materials may cause biological consequences inflammation, free oxygen radical generation, oxidative stress, DNA damage and ultimately cell death/apoptosis.
Mr Haluk Dag, the Seecretary General of The Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC), spoke about the initiatives undertaken at a government level to establish an acceptable international Halaal standard. SMIIC is an affiliate organ the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and its statute entered into force in may 2010. He said that every country needs a well established infrastructure to achieve its goals. Starting from the essential parts this bears the necessity of providing vital elements such as enough food, clean water, health care, creating jobs and accessible education system to its society. As far as food is concerned, there is a tendency nowadays amongst consumers, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, to focus on the cleanliness and healthiness of what they consume. This is the point where standardization of Halaal Food plays a vital role bringing in the implementation of certification and accreditation. In a discussion with Moulana Abdul Wahab, he invited him to join the technical committee of the organization and provide input in terms of the envisaged standards.