Sustainable Halal Food Security

Sustainable Halal Food Security
28 January 2020

Halal system of values

Halal is an Arabic term
that carries the meaning of permissible or lawful and the opposite of halal is haram; forbidden or unlawful. It is forbidden for Muslims to consume haram products and services. Halal is a value system and lifestyle; subscribed by Muslims and applicable to all facets of life for both products and services “Lifestyle” refers to our everyday way of life that incorporates the different principles, values, and standards of living we have delineated for our lives.

Holistically the concept of halal in Islam has very specific motives to safeguard and preserve religious values and a healthy lifestyle.  Halal also incorporates elements of environmental-consciousness for a sustainable environment for better living of future generations and more importantly, it should be non-exploitative to the ecosystem and mankind. Halal also dictates self-respect and integrity, thus maintaining a harmonious environment within societies of diverse cultures and faiths.  

Halal is not just mean product certification or only restricted to the raw materials and ingredients per se but also involves the entire process of handling the halal products before being consumed by Muslims. The entire food supply chain from farm to table must comply with halal standards and practices. This includes a type of wholesome raw materials originated from only halal source and certified safe. Halal alone may not necessarily mean the products being consumed are of good quality and safe. Halal must be complemented and comply with the requirements of ‘toyyiban’. Toyyiban embedded aspects of cleanliness and hygienic processes thus ensuring safety and quality halal products. The Halal and toyyiban codes of practices compliment the globally accepted Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) for food processing, storage, and distribution.

The halal ecosystem provides a conducive ecosystem to govern a healthy and sustainable lifestyle within the framework of permissible and lawful as defined by the concept of halal. The halal ecosystem serves as a platform for achieving both sustainable development goals; namely ensuring quality and healthy living, and a sustainable lifestyle. An effective and uninterrupted halal food supply chain will serve as a core building block for sustainable halal food security.  Both the sustainable development goals are driven and embedded into the halal ecosystem.

Sustaining Halal and Toyyiban

Sustaining halal and toyyiban serves as a pillar to support and propagate a sustainable halal ecosystem, which include halal food security. Sustaining halal and toyyiban is about ensuring halal integrity of both products and processes along the food supply chain; from farm to table. Each and every processing step all along the food supply chain must be halal certified and comply with halal standards and practices. This also includes raw materials input, which is halal and free from contamination of non-halal materials and of good quality and safe to consume. Ensuring halal integrity all along the food supply chain from farm to table is the biggest challenge to stakeholders and regulatory bodies. Stakeholders may include farmers, processors, distributors and retailers. Involving government as a regulatory body is instrumental to the protection of halal integrity through enforcement of relevant laws and regulations pertaining to halal.  Halal certification alone without close and regular monitoring of the entire products and processes all along supply chain may impact the status of halal integrity. An effective record and monitoring system through the application of relevant technology will serve as an indisputable tool to ensure halal integrity.

 Halal Food Security

The ultimate goals of food security are about eradicating poverty and ensuring zero hunger. Environmental factors (climate change, insufficient water supply, etc) and agriculture development policy may impact the ecosystem of the sustainable food supply chain; thus affecting availability and accessibility of quality and safe products. The current definition of food security does not sufficiently address issues related to halal; the requirement of about 26% of the world population. Sustainable development goals hinged upon effective implementation of food security system which is fundamentally based on uninterrupted food supply chain; from farm to table. The halal status of the raw materials input and processes are not specifically stated, although deemed safer for human consumption in terms of nutritional content and free from harmful contaminants.

Halal ecosystems provide a conducive environment for sustainable halal food security as halal is the benchmark for quality and safety products apart from safeguarding future generations through non-exploitative of natural environment and resources. Social responsibility in conserving the natural environment to ensure production of quality and safer food is the key element of the halal value system.

Within the context of halal food security, aspects of the sustainable halal food supply chain which includes raw materials availability and compliant to halal standard in processing, logistics, storage, and distribution determine the halal integrity, apart from ensuring the quality and safety of the halal food. These are the most defined critical factors impacting the integrity and sustainable halal food supply chain. The entire supply chain (farm to table) and values addition must conform to halal standards and practices.

About one-third of starting edible food raw materials are wasted due to either improper post-harvest handling or brought about by natural disaster (climatic changes, flood, etc.) The waste generated during post-harvest processing is generally due to either selective extraction of relatively smaller edible portion of raw materials or due to inefficient process technology to deal with complex anatomical structures of the raw materials The wastes could otherwise feed about 1 billion populations. Thus, both environmental and technological factors evidently contribute to the generation of wastes throughout the food supply chain.

The concept of halal and toyyiban prohibit wastage and the use of harmful procedures including processing aids. Achieving zero waste in both upstream and downstream activities including the processing of agriculture products significantly contributes toward achieving green circular economy goals which among other emphasise on recycle and reusable of wastes or by-products of industrial processing. Current practices using mostly chemical as processing aid may contribute toward the accumulation of hazardous wastes impacting the environment if not properly handle or treated before discharging into the ecosystem; thus disrupting the ecological balance and affecting the sustainable environment and healthy living.

Preserving and conserving a healthy environment are social responsibility as embedded in the halal concept and are the key element of halal value system to ensure uninterrupted food supply chain destine to needy humankind. Overexploitation of green resources will soon become very eminent with profit-driven as a primary objective unless a fair and equitable policy based on halal and toyyiban are genuinely incorporated and implemented. Halal itself is inherently justifiable and readily embedded in circular green economy, which is propelled by green technology.

Applying innovative green technology of fundamentally based on halal and toyyiban provides a sustainable solution towards ensuring halal integrity for quality and safer halal food with minimum wastes. The halal food supply chain originated from the wholesome halal raw material process by environmental friendly technology, generates minimum recyclable and reusable wastes. The wastes generated notably free from harmful components but may still contain valuable nutrients utilisable for human consumption through further processing and nutrients enriching or fortification. The “wastes” itself; depending on the composition are utilisable as a substrate or functional components for bioconversion into value-added products thus fulfilling the wastes minimisation and zero wastes strategies as clearly emphasized by the concept of halal and toyyiban and embedded in circular economy.

Incorporating halal and toyyiban standards and practices in the global food security agenda provides a conducive development framework for social entrepreneurship through various opportunities created by the halal food security system. The halal food security ecosystem may create opportunities for various sizes of business ventures related to food which will grow and nurture with the system. These opportunities may contribute to poverty eradication. The opportunities may create various sizes of business ventures related to food which will grow with the system.

The way forward

Sustaining halal food security ecosystem generally requires a synergistic and collaborative effort by relevant stakeholders, which include government as a regulator, farmers, and producers. Policies and actions governing the halal food security ecosystem need to be formulated by incorporating elements of halal and toyyiban for products and processes. This represents key elements for development and implementation of halal food security ecosystem. Both farmers and producers need to effectively communicate on their roles to sustain halal integrity by adhering and conforming to various halal standards and practices in their processing technology and distribution.

Sustaining halal food security requires effective interfacing with other sectors of the economy which include media for effective communication and dissemination of relevant information. Stakeholders and the community at large need to be feed in with reliable information interactively. Media support serves as a platform and conduit to educate the community on the strategic importance of halal food security in relation to the global sustainable development agenda.

Support and continuous commitment from financial institutions are crucial for halal related enterprises developed as a spin-off from halal food supply chain. Sustainable halal food supply chain serves as an integrated backbone for halal food security in which various forms and sizes of entrepreneurs are developed and nurtured. The most notable effort is about establishing sharia-compliant micro-credit financing facilities to assist the small scale enterprises to grow their businesses. This noble effort will contribute towards poverty eradication, as envisaged as one of the objectives in sustainable development goals shared globally.

Competent and knowledgeable human capital serves as a driving force to sustain halal food security ecosystem. Training of competent and knowledgeable human capital in matters related to halal standards and practices will contribute significantly towards sustaining halal food security ecosystem. Both stakeholders' and regulators' participation in this talent development is crucial for a successful human capital development program for sustainable halal food security.

Food security, in general, remains a global agenda but of different magnitude and scale. Climate changes and development policies are critically impacting the global food security agenda including halal food security. Development policies embedded with elements of sustainable food security should be formulated and implemented diligently. Technological advancement in both upstream and downstream agriculture development may not necessarily exert positive impact on sustainable food security and more often create problems that may require substantial effort and resources to overcome. The technology developed must be inclusive addressing issues related to a sustainable environment and non-exploitative. Halal, as a values system may provide a sustainable solution and input for sustainable food security developmental frameworks.

The following article has been kindly provided by Emeritus Professor Dato Dr. M. Azemi M. Noor from Universiti Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.