What Is Halal Certification? All About The Product Label Now Banned In UP

A case was registered in Lucknow on November 17 based on a complaint that accused a company and some organizations of certifying products as ‘Halal’ to increase their sales among the Muslim community. Following this, the Uttar Pradesh government on Saturday imposed a statewide ban on "production, storing, distribution and sale of halal certified edible items" with immediate effect.

The FIR registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code at Hazratganj police station of Lucknow, on a complaint lodged by one Shailendra Sharma, names Halal India Private Limited, Chennai; Jamiat Ulema Hind Halal Trust, Delhi; Halal Council of India, Mumbai; and Jamiat Ulema Maharashtra, Mumbai. They are accused of cheating “the customers of a particular religion by providing Halal certificates on some products in the name of religion by taking financial benefits to increase their sales”.

Here is a look at what is halal, what are halal certificates, who issues them and what necessitates this food label.

What Is Halal?

Halal is an Arabic word. In Islam, halal is any object, or act, which is sanctioned and approved as per Islamic jurisprudence. Though the term could broadly apply to any object or activity, it is more often heard regarding dietary laws for Muslims.

Loosely translated into English, the word means ‘lawful’ or ‘permissible’. The opposite of this term in the Quran and the Hadith (Prophet Muhammad’s sayings) is ‘haram’, which means ‘forbidden’ or ‘unlawful’.

Like orthodox Jews, who eat only food that is ‘kosher’ (permissible as per Jewish law), practicing Muslims are advised to eat only halal food, which has to be processed in compliance with Islamic laws.

Understanding Halal Foods And How It Is Ascertained

In Islamic dietary laws, the term "halal" signifies what is permissible, with strict criteria governing both the food itself and its source. Muslims adhere to specific guidelines to ensure that their dietary choices align with Islamic principles, distinguishing between halal (permissible) and haram (forbidden) foods.

For a food item to be deemed halal, not only must it come from a halal source, but it must also be free from non-halal ingredients. For instance, dishes prepared using the French flambé methods, involving alcohol, are considered haram according to Islamic dietary laws. Likewise, the classic Pasta Carbonara, made with traditional Guanciale (cured pig cheek), is not halal; however, a version made with chicken is deemed suitable for consumption.

Halal Food Sources 

Apart from adhering to ritualistic processes, a general rule of thumb exists to identify halal animals, birds, and aquatic creatures.

Halal land animals must meet specific criteria: they should not be predators, possess bifurcated hoofs (eg, sheep, camels), and refrain from using their canines to rip skin and tear meat. Predatory terrestrial animals, therefore, fall under the category of haram for Muslims. Conversely, non-predatory terrestrial animals — those that survive on grass and leaves without preying on other creatures — are considered halal. Explicitly forbidden animals include pigs, donkeys, and mules.

Among land animals, those lacking blood, such as hornets, flies, arachnids, beetles, scorpions, and ants, are considered haram, with the exception of locusts. . Cold-blooded animals, pests, reptiles, and amphibians are also excluded from the halal category.

In the avian realm, all birds of prey — those that hunt with claws or talons, such as falcons, eagles, kites, hawks, and bats — are classified as haram.

Among aquatic creatures, all fishes are considered halal. If an aquatic life is considered anything else besides fish (classification under the category of mammal) then it is not to be considered halal.

While there are different schools of thought in Islam, which refer to the permissibility factor, they more or less agree on the aforementioned ways of determining halal animals. 

Importantly, for an animal To be considered halal, it must undergo slaughter through the Zabiha method, or exsanguination. This method involves a precise cut to the jugular vein, carotid artery, and windpipe — consistent with Islamic principles.

What Is A Halal Certificate And What Are The Criteria?

A Halal Certificate means the particular product or service bearing it is suitable for consumption by Muslims. For trading purposes, mainly for food and related products, it is essential to get a Halal certification in Islamic countries. Typically, Halal Certification is sought by hotels, restaurants, slaughterhouses, and manufacturing firms for packaging and labeling of food products to ensure they are acceptable to Muslim consumers.

The Islamic laws prohibit consumption of blood, carrion, and animals not killed by exsanguination, the particular method of slaughtering an animal by draining it of blood, as opposed to the method of ‘jhatka’, preferred by Sikhs and Hindus, in which the The animal is killed instantly. ‘Jhatka’ is believed to have originated from the Sanskrit word ‘jhatiti’, which means ‘instantly’ or ‘quickly at once’.

Halal Certification, however, is not restricted to just food products. From raw materials for food processing to non-alcoholic beverages, and pharmaceutical and healthcare products to cosmetics, cleaning products and consumer goods, all apply for Halal Certificate for greater consumer acceptance.

Does Vegetarian Food Also Need Halal Certificate?

Halal Certificate is not just related to meat products or animal byproducts. Even some vegetarian items may contain non-Halal ingredients, like alcohol.

For example, L-Cysteine, an amino acid, can be found in breads, and flour and used in baking. While L-cysteine ​​is mostly produced by fermentation, it is derived from chicken feathers in France and hydrolysis of human hair in China. Thus, a Halal Certificate is provided for vegetarian products and items as well.

Who Issues Halal Certificates In India?

Unlike Gulf nations, India does not have an official regulator or body for the certification of halal products. Certification to companies, products, or food establishments is provided by third-party bodies like Halal India and Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust. In Arab nations, a magistrate grants the Halal Certification.

According to the website of Halal India, its certification is recognized by UAE’s Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore,  Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development and  Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health. For a new client, getting a Halal certificate may cost up to Rs 30,000, as per the website.

However, India does have guidelines on the export of halal-certified meat and its products, which were issued by the Commerce Ministry earlier this year. As per the norms, halal-certified meat should be produced, processed and packaged in a facility authorized by a body accredited to the Quality Council of India.