A food vender in the coastal town of Khor
Fakkan, United Arab Emirates (UAE) was recently fined after officials found "chicharon crackers," a Filipino product made of pig skin, on supermarket shelves, according to news reports.
After receiving a complaint from a resident who suspected the product contained pork, authorities investigated, testing the product and eventually extracting a pledge from the vendor to avoid selling any similar products in the future.
Fawzia Rashid Al Qadi municipality director of the coast town, said action will also be taken against the supplier.
Industry reports show that officials in the UAE have been taking a more focused approach to halal product enforcement in the last few years as the country’s population grows. A 2014 report from Global Meat suggests that imports and other issues have led the nation's leaders to analyze how they can restrict the availability of unapproved or haram products such as pork snacks.
In the UAE, supermarkets need a permit to sell pork products, which can only be stored in specific non-halal sections of the stores. Controlling the sale of non-halal products can be difficult.
The Khor Fakkan case, for its part, is extraordinary given news reports that allege that the snack packaging contained a picture of a pig’s head.
“If you're claiming to be selling a halal product and you're not, you're subject to fines.” Mukaram Syed, a member of the board of trustees at the Islamic Community Center of Lancaster, Pa., told the Gulf News Journal.
He said the issue can often become complicated, particularly with the use of gelatin in medical products or consumer products like ice cream.
Consumers, he said, especially those outside of traditionally Muslim communities, may have some responsibility to call and ask a company about how its products are prepared.
In other cases, he said, manufacturers are on the hook for being truthful about what's in their products.
“If a manufacturer is not aware, there could be recall.” Syed said, citing instances when other companies have been taken to task for mislabeling non-halal foods.
“Halal is pretty easy as long as you're aware of these things,” Syed said, adding that some businesses employ an inspector ensure compliance with standards.
The mechanics of halal inspection are complex. Still, stories like these show that officials in the UAE are focused on supporting important cultural and religious traditions in the country by separating halal and non-halal food products.