Speeding up halal certification process

, National 4 minutes, 20 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE long wait in attaining halal certification from the government remains a concern for food businesses.

Legislative Council members had previously brought up the need to hasten the processing of halal certification in 2011, 2013 and 2014, but eateries said they still need to wait for at least three months before they can get the accreditation.

A representative of a local restaurant in the capital said his food business only received the halal certification three to four months after making an application.

“The process took longer than usual because of (our restaurant’s) cleanliness. Officials informed us that our restaurant had to be inspected by officials from the Ministry of Health.”

“Inspection took a while as our building is quite old and we needed to make a lot of effort maintaining it,” added the representative who declined to be named.

He said even though the long wait was not an issue for them, it was a problem for other restaurant owners.

“Some restaurants have had to wait much longer; up to two years or even more. I believe the authorities need to speed up the process as this can help businesses as some customers may not want to dine at a restaurant that does not have the halal certification sign.”

He said having the halal certification gives customers reassurance that every product or the ingredients used are permitted.

The goverment started issuing halal certificates in 2005, but it was only in 2011 when it made it compulsory for restaurants that claim to serve halal food and drinks obtain the halal certification.

The requirement was effective from January 1, 2012, and enforced on January 1, 2014.

Under the Halal Certificate and Halal Label Order 2005, the halal certification is awarded to businesses that do not use any part of an animal which Muslims are prohibited to consume.

Furthermore, products should not contain anything that is considered to be impure in accordance with Islamic law.

The Order also states that businesses that applied for halal certification should make sure their food have not in the course of preparation or storage, been in contact with any food that failed to meet Islamic law requirements.

A total of 1,334 eateries and 150 food processing factories have received halal certificates since 2008 until February 18, 2016, according to the Ministry of Religious Affairs’ Halal Food Control Section.

Zurina Salwa Hj Osman, an officer from the Halal Food Control Section, acknowledged that attaining the halal certification can take a long time but said the government targets issuing the halal certification process in 45 days under its Client’s Charter.

“The process of getting the certification will not take a long time as long as restaurant owners provide the authorities with the documents needed, and there is no shortcut in getting the certificate,” she said.

Zurina said the auditing process usually takes about 35 days and another 10 days for the certificate issuance process by the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB).

Explaining the strict requirements in awarding halal certification, she said it is not just about using halal ingredients and products, but also keeping the restaurant clean.

“When it comes to ingredients, if the said ingredient do not have a halal sign on it and has nothing forbidden in the ingredients, we would still need to send it to our lab for analysis.

“This is just to check for alcohol level and if there is any pork DNA. The process takes a while depending on the ingredients. Highly processed food would take longer whereas liquids such as teriyaki or soy sauce wouldn’t take as long,” she continued.

At present, multiple agencies are involved in the issuance of halal certificates, including the Department of Syariah Affairs, Municipal Department, District Office, MUIB and Ministry of Home Affairs.

Zurina said the unit does not have manpower, with only 53 officers handling the halal certification process.

“There is an average of three officers handling every application including two religious officers and an expert in the dietary and medical fields.

Another problem that causes delays in getting certification is when restaurateurs have difficulty in hiring Muslim supervisors, a requirement to attain a halal certificate.

Another eatery representative in Kg Kiulap said their restaurant received their halal certification after three months due to issues recruiting Muslim supervisors.

“At first I found it difficult to find Muslim supervisors. We also had problems with the ingredients used in our kitchen as some of them are imported from non-Muslim countries,” said the representative who also requested for anonymity.

Other than providing documentation on the business, applicants must also provide details of the restaurant premises including its floor plan.

Applicants are also required to provide a list of food and drinks that will be served at the restaurant, including the ingredients used.

The halal certification costs $90 for a period of three years. Restaurant owners must renew their halal certificates six months before expiration.

Zurina said applicants can also apply for halal permits that only apply to food products such as cakes.

“The halal certification is for the restaurant itself, but the halal permits are for products. For example, bakeries that sometimes send their products to other shops or restaurants.”

She said every product must have a halal permit and will cost $50 each. The permit lasts for a lifetime.

The Brunei Times