Sat, 01 Mar 2008
From: The Jakarta Post
By Lilian Budianto , The Jakarta Post
Any food products found without halal or haram labels should be withdrawn from the market to avoid confusing Muslims, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) said Friday.

Deputy head of MUI's food and drugs analysis body Lukmanul Hakim said once halal labeling was made compulsory all producers of halal products should obtain certificates.

He further said, "All products claimed by their producers to be halal but do not have certificates should be banned".

"The government should also withdraw these products from the market."

He said provisions should be included in a bill on halal product assurance to oblige food producers to certify their products with halal labels.

The draft law, currently being reviewed at the State Secretariat, said offenders would be sentenced to a maximum of two years or a fine of up to Rp 100 million (around US$10,750).

He said all food producers should make it clear whether their products were halal or haram to avoid misleading customers.

Such notification was necessary because Muslims generally tended to take for granted food, drugs and cosmetic products without halal labels, he said.

"Products without halal labels can actually be considered non-halal while average Muslims may not be aware of this," Hakim said.

A survey by marketing expert Rhenald Kasali found that customers perceived products were safe for consumption as long as they were not attached with a "haram" (not halal) label, which were issued by the ulema council.

Earlier this month, in a hearing with the House of Representatives, MUI leaders demanded the government oblige all food producers, claiming their products were safe for Muslims, to certify their products.

The council, which has been authorized to administer and issue halal labels for 19 years, said mandatory labeling was necessary to protect the majority Muslim population in the country.

Data from the Religious Affairs Ministry showed only around 20 percent of products available at the markets had been certified with halal labels, although most producers claimed their products were consumable for Muslims.

Hakim also said the MUI had rejected a provision in the draft law that suggested an independent body would take over the council's authority in issuing halal certificates.

The ulema council argued it was the only institution acknowledged by the public and the most experienced in handling halal certification.

The draft law was submitted to the State Secretariat two weeks ago for review before being deliberated at the House.



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