The Muslim Judicial Council Halal Trust (MJCHT) has been delisted from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) after failing an external audit for the first time in 19 years. JAKIM is the Malaysian government’s highest Islamic affairs body.
JAKIM’s audit of the MJCHT in November last year stated that the halal authority was not compliant with international standards. JAKIM identified three areas of concern which include insufficient expertise, problems with the halal certification system and halal slaughter houses.
JAKIM has given the MJCHT a six to twelve month window period to implement corrective measures so that it meets the international body’s upgraded criteria.
The MJCHT consists of members of the ulema fraternity, with limited technical expertise. The MJCHT makes use of independent technically qualified Muslim individuals and institutions for specialised jobs such as food technology, biochemists and lab chemists. Until recently, there has been no specialised halal laboratory in South Africa. Processes are now underway to launch the very first halal testing laboratory in Cape Town.
JAKIM requires that the MJCHT have this expertise more directly on board at the organisation. A comprehensive portfolio of Shari’ah committee members, halal auditors, inspectors, slaughterers, with documented qualification is another key requirement. According to JAKIM’s report, experience in these aspects of the MJCHT’s operations is not enough.
“We have been talking about improving technology for some time now, but never got to actually implementing this,” said MJCHT director Shaykh Achmat Sedick.
While JAKIM is comfortable with the current MJCHT halal certification system, they want tangible proof of the implementation by the ulema on all levels. The entire operation of the MJCHT must now be documented in a Standard Operating Procedure manual.
In terms of JAKIM’s halal slaughtering system, another person termed the ‘halal slaughter checker’ needs to be positioned in the slaughter line immediately after the last slaughter in order to a post slaughtering check on bleeding time and whether the slaughter slit has been cut according to Shari’ah. All halal slaughterers are required to be registered with the MJCHT with proof of certificates of training.
Speaking to VOC on Thursday, Sedick acknowledged the recommendations in the audit, adding that the body would implement corrective measures. He said the Trust has liaised with JAKIM to determine what would be required to have the MJCHT reinstated.
“We have appointed the mufti of the MJC, Maulana Tauha Karaan to be the formal trainer of the MJC’s Shari’ah Committee members, halal auditors, slaughters and inspectors.
“The MJC has also interviewed two technically qualified persons in the science of food technology who are qualified in environment and health sciences. We also hope to employ two qualified persons in the halal science food industry at the MJCHT.”
The halal body has also made contact with the abattoirs and chicken plants under its certification to explain JAKIM’s requirements for slaughter checkers on the slaughter line. The concept of a ‘halal slaughter-checker’ is not in practise at abattoirs and chicken plants in South Africa because that function was in the past managed by the halal supervisor on the site.
Sedick said the MJCHT has also arranged meetings with the independent halal slaughterer contracts to formalise the training of their slaughterers under the auspices of the MJCHT. He added that competency certificates would be issued to each slaughterer.
The MJCHT’s relationship with JAKIM was established in 1997. Since then, the halal certifying body has been audited four times over the 19 years. Sedick said the Halal Trust has welcomed these audits as it has kept the organisation on par with international halal standards requirements.
JAKIM’s delisting of the MJCHT is another setback for the halal body, which has tried hard to re-invent itself following the much-publicised Orion meat scandal in 2011.
Sedick hastened to add that JAKIM’s audit and delisting of the MJCHT are “of a technical nature”.
“The Halal Trust’s operation, halal certification and confirmation are intact and haven’t been comprised in any way.” VOC