Halal food needs to be certified by approved institutions. Halal food needs to be certified by approved institutions.

Halal integrity is an important factor that governs meat imports into the UAE, according to experts who discussed the issue during a roundtable with Caterer Middle East.

Meat & Livestock Australia's regional manager Middle East & North Africa Jamie Ferguson said that halal integrity is an important issue with the organisation working on a related campaign with the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (Esma). The latter is responsible for unified halal codes and is mandated by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Ferguson added: "HH Sheikh Mohammed basically said that UAE wants to be the leader of halal. There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and if we want part of that action, we have got to do it well."

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Dubai Municipality Food Control Department's food health inspection officer Mohammad Khalid Saeed explained that non-halal meat is not allowed in the country, unless in rare cases of special permits.

Emirates Flight Catering food and beverage manager Samer Sabbagh agreed and said: "Some supermarkets may have pork products but with halal products, nothing else can be there."

Any meat consignment arriving in the UAE from non-Muslim countries or specified areas need to have a halal certificate, according to Saeed. 

Ferguson explained that Australia has a stringent system in place for its meat exports, with six main Islamic organisations and an Australian goverment-approved halal programme since 1982. This programme is also approved by the OIC and the UAE.

He said: "The Islamic organisation controls anything religious and the Australian government controls segregation. So if any carcass is deemed not to be halal, it becomes the Australian government’s responsibility to ensure that there’s no contamination, there’s segregation and integrity is maintained."

Saeed added that the UAE's Ministry of Water and Environment has a particular section dealing with this issue, with the certifier in any other country having to be approved by the ministry. "We only accept the certificate if it’s from that certifier," concluded Saeed.

Read more about the roundtable in the August edition of Caterer Middle East.