The Ministry of Justice is being sued over the contamination of Halal meat in prisons, Justice Minister Jeremy Wright told MPs this week.
A “small number” of claims have been filed and would be “robustly defended where appropriate,” Mr Wright said in response to a parliamentary question from shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan.
One of the main problem in the UK halal industry are the Halal certifier, who in this case happens to be Halal Food Authority, who has not taken any responsibility except to say they have taken their halal certification away from the company, they claim to be halal regulator for the food industry. Their claim is that their organisation has been empowered by DEFRA and FSA to regulate the halal industry and to issue official Muslim slaughterman licences into abattoirs. Mr Geoff Webdale, DEFRA, Animal Welfare Core Team said in an email to me: “I can confirm that there has been no change to the way licences are issued under the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 (WASK) in England (new arrangements have been introduced in Scotland since 1 January 2013 under the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (Scotland) Regulations 2012).
“So-far as approved slaughterhouses in England are concerned, all licences are issued by the Food Standards Agency following an assessment of competence by the Official Veterinarian. HFA has no role to play in this process and any ‘licences’ issued by them to individual slaughtermen would not meet the licensing requirements set out at Schedule one of WASK.
“This arrangement will continue until the WASK (England) Regulations 2013 are laid before Parliament later in the year. As with Scotland, new arrangements will be introduced in England in due course. No final decisions have been taken on the new arrangements that will apply in England and Ministers are still considering the comments received following the consultation which ran for six weeks to 24 October 2012. It would therefore be premature for the HFA to claim to be issuing any form of licence under these new arrangements.
“So far as the HFA claim to be regulating Halal food and drink on behalf of FSA and Defra is concerned, I can confirm we have no powers to authorise HFA or any other Halal certification body to act for us in this capacity.
“You asked me to confirm whether the FSA has authorised HFA to act as a Halal regulating body.
I can confirm that I have checked with them and the FSA has not authorised HFA or any other Halal certification body to act for them in this capacity.”
I think this makes it clear that the only regulation or guidance that should be followed for halal in the UK is the Guidance note issued by FSA and not these certifier, all these certifiers can do is remove their certification.
Many of these certifiers also claim that they have been going for many years, yet when checks are made about their limited status that paint a different story, they all hide behind the Trade Mark? Back to the question of “How far does the duty of care towards feeding Muslim prisoners extend?”
It could be argued that the prison services (ie Her Majesty’s Government) exercised their reasonable duty of care in that they served Halal certified food to Muslim prisoners. It would be unreasonable for the prison services to examine the Halal certified food beyond relying on the label that the food was Halal, that it was not the fault of the prison service and they cannot be held liable.
However, the prison service and the prisoners do have a claim against the halal certifying authority (in this case the HFA) for certifying food as halal when it was clearly not. It contained pork. The prisoners could demand that the prison service claims on behalf of the prisoners against the HFA for substantial compensation since the prisoners ate food which violated their religion in breach of their religious conscience.
The likes of 3663 and HMPS heavily relied on their certifier to guide them and ensure the prison inmates had halal food and did not violate religious believes and they should be held accountable. Referring to the parliamentary question from shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan concern at being sued over the contamination of Halal meat in prisons, and a small number have already been filed is the tip of the ice berg , I believe all public sector procurement will follow the same fate as they have allowed not only pork DNA but also horse DNA in to their halal food chain, the public sector procurement have ignored the official Halal guide lines by FSA in favor of a halal certifier.
The way forward for the UK halal market is implementation of the Guidance note on halal food as issued by M/s Sarah Appleby, Head of Enforcement and Local Authority Delivery Division in 2003 and then reissued in 2010 is implemented and we should ignore all these halal certifiers as all they can only remove their halal cert, where as the guidance note on halal food has the backing of FSA and Trading Standard.
Naved Syed Board Member of EBLEX Halal Steering Group