MUSLIM ARBITRATION TRIBUNAL :The Pork DNA found in products certified as Halal by HFA

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MUSLIM ARBITRATION TRIBUNAL

Higham Grange, Watling Street, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, CV11 6BE

FINDINGS OF A PUBLIC COMMUNITY INQUIRY

This document is declared as an open public record emanating from the Public Community Inquiry held by the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (‘MAT’) on 4th July 2013.

BACKGROUND

The Halal Food Authority (‘HFA’) is a private limited company that is in the business of accrediting and certifying food products as Halal. McColgan Quality Foods is a manufacturing company that produces food products. McColgan Quality Foods had produced food products for a company called 3663 who in turn supply such products to the Muslims held in UK jails. The products produced by McColgan Quality Foods for 3663 were certified as Halal by the HFA.

In or around February of this year, the Food Standards Agency carried out DNA tests on various products in light of the horse meat scandal. As part of these tests, products certified as Halal by HFA were also part of the DNA testing. Results of such DNA testing found traces of Pork DNA in products certified as Halal by HFA.

The Pork DNA found in products certified as Halal by HFA were manufactured by McColgan Quality Foods for 3663 and were intended to supplied by 3663 to the Ministry of Justice. The said products were intended for Muslims held in UK prisons.

Acceding to the Muslim Community’s request, MAT deemed that there should be a Public Community Inquiry in order to establish the circumstances surrounding Pork DNA being found in such products certified as Halal by HFA.

On 5th February 2013, MAT wrote to HFA in its capacity as the company who had certified the products as Halal, asking it to engage with MAT. MAT had informed HFA that on behalf of the Muslim Community, a Public Community Inquiry will be held in order to investigate this issue. Similar correspondence was also sent to McColgan Quality Foods and 3663.

The Muslim Community continued its engagement with MAT and stressed for there to be a Public Community Inquiry into the matter and on 17th June 2013, MAT invited all parties to attend a Public Community Inquiry to be held on 4th July 2013.

McColgan Quality Foods responded via their solicitors and confirmed that they will not be attending or participating. It is also prudent to note that the said correspondence to MAT mentioned that:

“We confirm that our client received certification from the Halal Food Authority for each of the Halal products it supplied for consumption in prisons. Certification involved substantive consideration of the ingredients of each of the products, along with production processes at our client’s premises”

3663 also responded and confirmed that they too would not be attending or participating. 3663 further mentioned that:

“we [make] 3663’s position in the ‘supply chain’ clear…3663 does not produce or manufacture any food itself at all. It is a distributor and distributed products bought from an independent producer which was certified by the Halal Food Authority to product Halal food”

MUSLIM ARBITRATION TRIBUNAL

Higham Grange, Watling Street, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, CV11 6BE

HFA did respond but did not inform MAT as to whether or not it would be attending the Public Community Inquiry.

THE PUBLIC COMMUNITY INQUIRY

On 4th July 2013, a Public Community Inquiry was held. The nature of the Public Community Inquiry was the circumstances surrounding pork DNA found in certain products certified as Halal by HFA.

In attendance were Messrs Sultan Mehmood, Asim Awan and Mohammed Hussain. HFA did not attend.

Messrs Sultan Mehmood and Asim Awan are Solicitors by profession and were engaged by MAT as the Panel Members of the Public Community Inquiry. Mr Mohammed Hussain was the lead investigator acting for and on behalf of MAT.

FINDINGS OF THE PUBLIC COMMUNITY INQUIRY

Notwithstanding HFA’s and the other parties non attendance, the Public Community Inquiry nevertheless took place and it held as follows:

Facts

HFA is a private limited company in the business of certifying products as Halal. McColgan Quality Foods are food manufacturers and produced the product in question (pastries and pies) (‘Products’). McColgan Quality Foods had produced the Product for a company called 3663 who intended to supply such products to the Muslims held in UK jails. The products produced by McColgan Quality Foods for 3663 were certified as Halal by HFA.

In or around February of this year, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) carried out DNA tests on various products in light of the horse meat scandal. As part of this DNA testing, the Products manufactured by McColgan Quality Foods were also submitted for DNA testing. The FSA informed the Ministry of Justice that pork DNA was found in the Products. The Products were withdrawn. Halal Certification of the Products

HFA had accredited McColgan Quality Foods as the manufacturer of the Products produced for 3663 as Halal.

In relation to the said Halal audits and certification, the following questions were outstanding and needed to be addressed and answered by HFA. To date, such questions remain unanswered:-

1. When did the audit take place?

2. How frequently has McColgan Quality Foods been audited?

3. What did the audit process consist of?

4. Was an audit report prepared and if so, can it be made public? If not, then on what grounds is it not being disclosed?

5. When and how often did the announced and unannounced audits take place and what were the findings?

MUSLIM ARBITRATION TRIBUNAL

Higham Grange, Watling Street, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, CV11 6BE

The Products

Traces of pork DNA were found in the actual products. This shows that:

1. The actual meat may have came into contact with pork prior to such meat being supplied to the manufacturer of the Products; and/or

2. At the manufacturing stage or at some stage(s) prior to the packaging of the Products, the Products came into contact with pork or elements of pork.

The following questions were outstanding and needed to be addressed and answered by HFA. To date, such questions remain unanswered:-

1. What were the ingredients of the Products?

2. Where was the meat sourced from and what traceability steps were carried out by HFA (as part of its auditing process) to ensure the authenticity of such meat and that it was Halal and fit for Muslim consumption?

3. What else is produced at the manufacturing site where the Products were produced?

4. Are there any pork or pork based products made at the manufacturing site where the Products were produced and what steps, if any, did HFA take (as part of its auditing process) to remove the possibility or doubt of there being any cross contamination in respect of the Products with other non halal (or pork based products) and how is this procedure validated and regulated. In particular, what measures did HFA put in place (as part of its auditing process) to ensure that there was no cross contamination between Halal and non Halal products:

a. At the goods in stage, where all goods enter the manufacturing site;

b. At the manufacturing stage;

c. At the packaging stage;

d. At the location where the product is stored;

e. At the distribution stage

5. What steps or measures did HFA take (as part of its auditing process) to establish how the machinery used to manufacture the Products is cleaned in preparation for Halal production? If non-Halal products are also produced at the same manufacturing site, when does the Halal production take place and what steps or measures did HFA put in place (as part of its auditing process) to ensure that the machinery is free and clear of any contaminants from previous products prior to the production of the Halal products and how is this procedure verified and regulated?

HFA’s Actions Once the Pork DNA Scandal Came to Light

There is no clarity on the steps and investigations HFA has or did conduct in this matter. HFA should have made clear all steps and investigations that it has or did take in relation to this issue and more importantly the findings of such investigations.

In its press release of 22nd February, HFA stated that “in the wake of the pork DNA and horsemeat scandals, the

HFA has brought in extra mandatory controls and implemented more stringent checks and balances to our existing halal certification criteria”.

MUSLIM ARBITRATION TRIBUNAL

Higham Grange, Watling Street, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, CV11 6BE

The following further questions are outstanding and need to be addressed by HFA.

1. what extra mandatory controls and stringent checks and balances have been introduced?

2. when were they introduced?

3. who did HFA consult/liaise with prior to introduction of such measures?

4. who have they been implemented upon?

5. What has been the difference in the standards and auditing process pre and post the pork DNA scandal?

It is not likely that the questions stipulated in this document shall be answered by HFA or any of the other connected parties.

Conclusion

How and what steps will HFA execute to reassure the Muslim Community that any such incident will not happen again?

HFA should make public all communications made with McColgan Quality Foods and 3663 in the aftermath of this event.

HFA have merely revoked the Halal certification of McColgan Quality Foods. The Public Community Inquiry finds that such a step is not enough nor does it resolve the underlying issue.

The Public Community Inquiry finds that as the Products were intended for Muslims held in UK jails, due to Pork DNA found in the Products, the material parties did not produce and supply the Products in accordance with the criteria and mandate established by HM Prison Service.

The Public Community Inquiry further finds that there are serious and pertinent questions which remain unanswered by HFA regarding its procedure for auditing and certifying products as Halal and that unless cogent answers are given to the aforegoing questions in a manner that satisfies the Muslim Community, the Muslim Community ought to be prudent and cautious of HFA and its auditing process and should avoid consuming products certified as Halal by HFA until the Muslim Community is satisfied and informed of the detail and manner in which HFA conducts its Halal audits and its certification process for products that it accredits as Halal and how it monitors and regulates such production once an audit has taken place and a Halal certificate issued.

Muslim Arbitration Tribunal

8th July 2013

source : Muslim Arbitration Tribunal 

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