TED Case Studies

Halal: The Islamic Regulations on the Import of Meat: Beef



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I. Identification

1. The Issue

The United States exports cattle beef all over the world. With the global tendency toward the liberalization of trade, this US beef export will increase more and more. Today, like other countries, the Federation of Malaysia is one of the importers of the US beef. On the other hand, here are strong cultural factors affecting the beef trade between them, and they function as a kind of regulations against the tendency toward liberalization. This cultural factor is Islam and Islamic restrictions on food in Malaysia. The following will mainly mention official requirements for cattle beef trade between Malaysia and the US. At the same time, this case study will focus on the unique relation between the beef trade and Halal: Islamic restrictions on food.


2. Description

A. Introduction

In Islam, there are mainly two terms that mean Islamic prohibition or restriction on food: Haram and Halal. For example, Muslims are prohibited from consuming pork and alcohol because they are regarded as Najis (unclean) in Islamic thinking, and they are the examples of Haram. (El-Mouelhy, 1996) As another example, for Muslim consumers, beef and poultry products must be certified as Halal, and they must originate from slaughterhouse that follow Islamic slaughter practices. (Fleck, 1998) Therefore, the religious affiliations of the 20.7 million population have an important impact on food consumption in Malaysia because it is a quite multiracial nation. (Fleck, 1998) For example, the 60% of the population are the Malay, and they are mostly Muslims. The following will focus on the Halal beef trade between Malaysia and the United States. First, the concept of Halal will be introduced, which is including the Koranic source of Halal, the appropriate way of slaughter and the brief mention of Halal food market in the world. Then, mainly, the U.S. official requirements on the beef export into Malaysia will be described with Halal aspects. Finally, mainly, Malaysian official requirements on the beef import will be explained with Halal aspects.

B. Halal

In Islam, like prayer and other religious activities, eating is regarded as a matter of worship of God. Muslims eat to maintain good health in order to be able to contribute their knowledge and efforts for the welfare of society. (El-Mouelhy, 1996) Therefore, all foods are considered lawful unless the Koran or the Hadith (Islamic bible and textbook) prohibit specific products. (El-Mouelhy, 1996) As state above, according to the current Islamic thinking, some food such as pork and alcohol are completely prohibited consuming, and they are called Haram. (El-Mouelhy, 1996) On the other hand, Halal foods are those that
(El-Mouelhy, 1996)


Specially, beef cattle and poultry should be slaughtered in an Islamic appropriate way, and Muslim consumers can have these products if some respectable authority stands behind the claims of these Halal products. (El-Mouelhy, 1996)

a. The Koranic source of Halal

Islam is not only a religion but also a way of life. (El-Mouelhy, 1996) Islamic rules and manners govern the individual Muslims, and they reflect Islamic ideas and values. (El-Mouelhy, 1996) Originally, the concept of Halal derives from the statements in the Koran and the Hadith. The Koran is the word of God, and the Hadith is the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. (Godlas, 1998) Muslims believe that God revealed the words to Muhammad over a twenty-two year period. (Godlas, 1998) It is said that the Prophet received the first revelation in 610 in the Cave of Hira at Mecca. (Godlas, 1998) On the other hand, based on what Muhammad said, several versions of the Hadith were compiled by several great Islamic scholars around 9-12c. (Godlas, 1998) From this information, the concept of Halal seemed to be systematized around 12c. while it has been mentioned since 7c. The following are some quotations about eating from the Koran.
Pay attention to the first sentence of the second quotation from the Koran. It is clearly stated that pork is Najis: Haram. That is to say, pork cannot be Halal meat anyway. Moreover, the following sentences describe the prohibited ways to slaughter other animals. To put it the other way around, meat slaughtered by none of the ways described there can be Halal meat. As a whole, we see that the deep relations between the concept of Halal and the Koran.

b. Halal manner of slaughter

According to Islamic law, there are the conditions required for Halal slaughter of animals and birds. (El-Mouelhy, 1996)
As a whole, from these conditions, it is obvious that Halal manners are determined in fine details, and that the slaughterer has to be careful to clear all of Halal steps. It is true that some religions prohibit eating specific food such as beef in Hinduism. However, few religions mention the way of slaughter and preparation of food. From this standpoint, the concept of Halal in Islam is quite unique in the world.

c. Halal food market

Today, wherever there are Muslim consumers whose tastes and preferences are governed by Halal rules on food specification, Halal food market exists. In this market, the technique of processing and handling the ingredients is always approved by Islamic law. (El-Mouelhy, 1996) On average, the world's Halal food trade is estimated about US$150 billion per year. In other words, there are great economic opportunities in this Halal food market. (El-Mouelhy, 1996)

C. The US beef export into Malaysia with Halal requirements

Malaysia is one of the rapidly developing Southeast Asian countries. For example, Malaysia has had an average annual growth of more than 8 percent, and per capita income grew from $3,144 in 1992 to $4,600 in 1996. (Fleck, 1998) In other words, Malaysia is the very potential market for foreign developed countries. Although three-quarters of Malaysia's imports from the United States are bulk commodities, the US exports of consumer-oriented foods have exhibited rapid growth in the early 1990s. (Fleck, 1998) For example, the value of these exports has jumped from $53 million in 1991 to $105 million in 1996. (Fleck, 1998) According to the best sales prospects for food items from the United States, meat and preparations, such as beef, premium processed meats and frozen turkey are promising as well as fresh fruits and daily products. (Fleck, 1998) On the other hand, there are strict export requirements for Malaysia, and these requirements are deeply related to Malaysian Islamic nature and Halal. The following is the extract of the export requirements by United States Department of Agriculture. Note that the points related to this case study: beef export and Halal are only extracted for convenience.

EXPORT REQUIREMENTS for MALAYSIA by FSIS
(Food Safety and Inspection Service)
(Peninsular, East--which includes states of Sabah and Sarawak)


Meat Products Slaughter Requirements

Slaughter must be performed without stunning; however, use of mushroom stunning devices is acceptable provided the brain is not penetrated. (Animals will be rejected if brain is penetrated.)

Documentation Requirements

A. Permit Requirements
Exporters must obtain a permit through the importer. The permit is issued by the Malaysian Department of Veterinary Services, permitting the importation of meat and meat byproducts and poultry and poultry byproducts into Malaysia. (It is not necessary for the USDA inspector to verify the permit.)

B. Certification Requirements C. Certificate of Islamic Slaughter
1. In addition to FSIS certification, the exporters must obtain a Certificate of Islamic (Halal) Slaughter from a member of an approved Islamic Center or Islamic Organization. A Certificate of Islamic Slaughter is a certificate issued by a member of a Moslem organization recognized by the importing country to provide this service; the certificate states that animals were slaughtered according to Moslem religious requirements. This certificate must accompany products labeled "Halal." The certificate must be endorsed by an approved Islamic Center.
2. Pork products do not require a Certificate of Islamic (Halal) Slaughter.
3. Poultry/poultry products may be imported without Halal certification, but may not be marketed as Halal.

Other Requirements

Halal meat must be maintained separate and apart from non-Halal meat. Product shipped from a slaughter plant to a processing plant must be identified, segregated, and accompanied by an Islamic Slaughter (Halal) Certificate. Slaughter plant management furnishing Halal meat to processing plants have the responsibility of informing the plant recipients that the meat must be kept identified and segregated from non-Halal meat.

Plants Eligible to Export

1. All Federally inspected plants are eligible for export of pork and pork products.
2. Bovine, Ovine and poultry slaughter and processing plants must be approved for export to Malaysia. Requests for plant approval must be submitted to the FSIS Technical Service Center, Omaha Nebraska, (402) 221-7400. When there is sufficient U.S. industry interest, an inspection trip will be organized.
3. Malaysian religious authorities must conduct the original inspection and certification of the facility.
4. Routine follow-up inspections can be made by authorized Islamic authorities based in the U.S.
5. The current list of plants eligible to export to Malaysia is available in the Export Requirements Library which is published on the Internet, or contact FSIS Technical Service Center, Omaha, NE for further information or a printed copy.

(FSIS, 1999)

As a whole, in addition to the general safety requirements, there are distinctive requirements for exporting to Malaysia. These distinctive requirements are observed in "Certification of Islamic Slaughter" in documentary requirements and "Other Requirements." They show Islamic strong impact in Malaysian society and economy. Therefore, it is obvious that the US meat export to Malaysia, usually beef export, is greatly affected and regulated by Malaysian cultural aspect: Islamic Halal concept.

D. Malaysian beef import regulations

At the same time of export requirements to Malaysia in the US, in Malaysia, the exported beef has to meet regulations of the import of beef cattle into Malaysia. The following is the copy of import regulations of beef cattle in Malaysia based on Animal Importation Order, 1962.

REGULATIONS for the IMPORTATION of ANIMAL BY-PRODUCTS into PENINSULAR MALAYSIA

A Products: Bone meal/flour, meat meal, horn, hoof, feather or blood meal of bovine, caprine, ovine or avian origin

B Country of Export: Any country

C Purpose: Animal feeding / Industrial use

D Regulations for Importation:
1 Veterinary Certificate
Each consignment of products shall be accompanied by a veterinary certificate dated within 14 days of import signed or endorsed by a Competent Veterinary Officer of the government veterinary authority of the country of export giving details of the consignment (consignor, consignee, quantity, type and origin of products) and certifying to the effect that

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