Confusion arises on halal pork products in France

News Agencies – February 13, 2011
Last month, the website Débat Halal claimed it had evidence that a popular brand of halal-certified poultry sausages marketed in France by a giant international food producer actually contain pork, rendering them haram to Muslims. The accusation led many French Muslims to question how they can be sure that any of the halal food they buy meets certification standards — only to discover that no single set of standards exists for determining which products are halal and which aren’t. Now, some observers are hoping that the haram hubbub may finally push France’s Muslim leaders to agree upon a united code for the halal food sector — one of the biggest-booming niche markets in the nation.
The flap over Herta’s poultry sausages is only the latest controversy involving halal-certified food in France. In recent months, revelations of mechanized slaughtering by some industrial poultry Producers — rather than the manual culling and bleeding halal requires — have led some experts to estimate that up to 90% of poultry products labeled as halal in France don’t meet even the most basic, generally recognized standards. While trying to find out exactly what the national norms are for halal certification, French Muslims have found there is no unified set of criteria or inspection procedures to verify a product as being halal. Reaching a consensus on halal standards will be difficult among France’s diverse, disparate Muslim population. Lacking an international structure like the Catholic Church to replicate at the national level, French Muslims remained largely unorganized until 2003, when government authorities helped found the French Council of the Muslim Faith as the representative of France’s “official Islam.” However, the organization has continually been undercut by rival factions and clashing loyalties that have made uniting French Muslims under a single structure challenging.