Seizing Opportunities in the Halal Industry through Regulatory Standardisation

As global demand for halal-certified products grows, there is a need for halal certification bodies across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to collaborate toward a standardised halal regulatory framework for the region. The absence of a unified certification system presents bottlenecks for halal businesses, and ultimately impedes cross-border halal trade.

At the Global Trade Development Week (GTDW) on Halal Trade, Manufacturing & Logistics Summit & Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month, experts from across various industries discussed the opportunities and challenges across halal industries at national, regional and global levels. Food Industry Asia (FIA), through the representation of Ms Teresa Lo, its Regulatory Affairs Assistant Manager, participated in two panel discussions on “Exploring Updates on Global Halal Regulations” and “Standardisation of Global Halal Regulations: The Corporate Perspective”.

Standardisation of halal regulations: The corporate perspective

During the panel discussions, Ms Lo shared her observations on the landscape of halal regulatory frameworks in Southeast Asia. A comparison across countries showed differences in frameworks – some countries, such as Singapore, have set in place a single halal governing authority that also serves as the halal certification body, while others, such as the Philippines, have multiple certifying bodies, with each operating independently of one another.

A lack of unification of a halal certification system poses challenges for companies operating in the halal space. Due to the lack of recognition between halal certification bodies, companies that export to different markets would need to gain and maintain multiple halal certifications to fulfil the requirements of the certifying bodies in each exporting market.

  Ms  Teresa Lo, Regulatory Affairs Assistant Manager, Food Industry Asia (FIA), addresses the audience during a panel discussion on the “Standardisation of Global Halal Regulations: The Corporate Perspective” at the Global Trade Development Week (GTDW) on Halal Trade, Manufacturing & Logistics Summit & Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 5 February 2018.
Photo credit: KW Group – Global Trade Development Week

Presenting an industry proposal, Ms Lo called for a mutual recognition agreement among ASEAN halal certifying bodies in order to ease cross-border halal trade and improve market access across countries, in line with the vision for an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Panellists agreed that there is a need for halal certification bodies to work in a collaborative manner, and to identify a leader to drive forward the discussion on the standardisation of halal regulations.

The call for collaboration among halal certification bodies to address the need for a standardised halal framework and mutual recognition is further echoed in light of the different practices observed across bodies – a result of diverse schools of thought concerning varying interpretations of Islamic laws. An example of such practices is the process of electronic stunning of animals and birds prior to slaughter, which is practised in countries like Malaysia and Singapore, but is not allowed in Brunei.

Therefore, it is important that halal certification bodies are aligned through agreement on fundamental parameters, in order to ensure halal assurance, and at the same time, that any differences do not compromise efforts to meet halal requirements. During the panel discussions, the Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC) was suggested as a platform to drive the standardisation process. The SMIIC was established for the harmonisation of standards among the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries, through the creation of common standards to achieve uniformity in the areas of metrology, laboratory testing and the setting up of conformity assessment schemes.

Growing demand for halal products and halal hub status 

According to the Pew Research Institute, there were 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide as of 2015, accounting for nearly one-fourth of the global population. The majority of Muslims are concentrated in the Asia Pacific and Middle East-North African regions: In 2010, nearly two-thirds – more than 986 million – Muslims were living in Asia Pacific, and 93 per cent of the approximately 341 million Middle-East-North African inhabitants were Muslims. While this contributes to growing global demand for halal products, non-Muslim countries such as Japan and South Korea are also experiencing increased consumer demand for halal-certified products, spurred by the internationalisation of products and a greater number of Muslim visitors, and are thus looking to boost halal developments as they venture into the halal food & beverage industry. 

Mr Mohd. Fakarudin bin Mas’od, Chief Assistant Director, Halal Hub, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM), shares a "Case Study: Utilising Mainstream and Social Media to Create Halal Awareness and Promote Positive Values in Halal" at the Global Trade Development Week (GTDW) on Halal Trade, Manufacturing & Logistics Summit & Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 5 February 2018.
Photo credit: KW Group – Global Trade Development Week

Greater demand for halal-certified products has led to an expansion of the sector beyond the F&B segment, and with it, the need for halal standards across segments to move at the same pace – if not ahead – of the growing trends.

In Malaysia, Malaysian Standard (MS) 2424:2012 was developed to provide halal standards for pharmaceutical products, in line with the country’s continued efforts to position itself as the global halal hub.

The Philippines introduced the implementation of rules and regulations for the Republic Act No. 10817, instituting the Philippine Halal Export Development and halal promotion programme, in July 2017. This was to enhance the exportation of halal products by necessitating that halal certification of products be issued by certifying bodies accredited by the Philippine Accreditation Bureau.

At the same time, the new halal law introduced in Indonesia in 2014, with a targeted enforcement date in 2019 under the governance of the Halal Products Certification Agency (Badan Penyelenggara Jaminan Produk Halal, BPJPH) and overseen by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, states that goods and services related to food and beverage, drugs, cosmetics and consumer goods that are worn, used or utilised by the public, must be halal-certified. This extensive halal scope is unprecedented, and recent changes to the governance structure have been seen as a move to present Indonesia as a halal nation.