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Ugandans Warned against Wrong Use of Halal Labels

Traditional halal meat, according to Islamic teaching, is killed by hand and must be blessed by the slaughterman in line with the strict Islam laws on slaughtering animals. For meat to be considered Halal, the animal must be alive and healthy before it is killed, and all the blood must be drained from the body. This is because Islam places great emphasis on the way an animal's life ends.
13 Oct 2020 18:04

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The Uganda National Bureau of Standards is putting in place measures to control the abuse of halal labels by entities targeting consumers of animal products. 

Halal is a dietary standard prescribed in the Qur'an, giving a green light to Muslims that a product has been carefully processed and stored using utensils, equipment and machinery that have been cleansed in conformity with Islamic teaching. Halal foods are free from any component that Muslims are prohibited from consuming. This includes pork and pork products, dead meat blood and any animal which is not invoked in the name of 'Allah'.

But in recent months, Ugandan supermarkets have displayed pork products, mainly, sausages with the Halal label. The latest incident was in Capital Shoppers supermarket, a mishap they said was a result of an error in the production line. One aggrieved customer had taken to social media to complain about the display and questioned the role of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards in protecting consumers and ensuring that misleading labelled products do not end up on the market.

Safina Namugga Ngobya, the Principle Standards Officer at the UNBS told an online engagement with industry stakeholders this afternoon that the word ‘Halal’ goes further than the type of food one consumes but covers conditions under which it is consumed, the type of labour used, and even the treatment of the animals themselves.

This additional condition is what is referred to as Tayyib in Arabic, translating to ‘wholesome and pure’ in English according to Dr Namugga.

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Traditional halal meat is killed by hand and must be blessed by the slaughter-man in line with the strict Islam laws on slaughtering animals. For meat to be considered Halal, the animal must be alive and healthy before it is killed, and all the blood must be drained from the body. This is because Islam places great emphasis on the way an animal's life ends.

However, there are people who are not bound by religion, but prefer food labelled Halal, a growing preference in the food market. It is also believed that many non-Muslims would not mind whether they eat Halal or not, which makes the food products made or labelled ‘Halal’, more marketable.

But Patricia Ejalu, the UNBS Deputy Executive Director, says many producers will want to take advantage of this and even mislabel their products to unfairly reach a wider market. She is, however, worried that unless this is checked, it will kill the local market, and have a spillover effect on the export market.

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Highlighting the need for education and sensitization of producers, Bob Kabango from the Uganda Small Scale Industries Association says that many of them do not know that there are such standards developed by the UNBS for the meat industry. This means perpetrators may not even know the gravity of mislabeling the products.  

Siragi Wakaabu Uganda’s Agriculture Attaché at the Food and Agriculture Organisation based in Rome says the Ugandan the industry must be aware of the growing demand for Halal food not only by the Muslim community but other sections of the global community. 

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The Food and Drug Act makes it unlawful to falsely label food or drugs. It provides that any person who falsely describes food or drug with intentions to mislead as to its nature, substance or quality commits an offence.

Uganda produces about 142,000 tonnes of meat, with beef, goat and sheep contributing to 130,000 tonnes, while exports amount to between USD 120 and USD 150 million annually.

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