The “Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act” passed by Congress in 2000 secures inmates’ liberty to religious freedom and dictates that the government should not impede a prisoner’s free exercise of religion without a compelling reason. Subsequently, many correctional institutions on the state and federal levels serve halal meals to practicing Muslims who request halal meals.
However, providing halal meals can be challenging due to the unique and specific circumstances and constraints that present themselves with food and beverage procurement and delivery in correctional facilities.
Correctional facilities general procure by:
- Competitive Annual Tenders
- Competitive Opportunity Tenders
- Direct Procurement Tenders
When faced with procuring halal meals from vendors, the main challenges institutions face are the certification status of vendors and the vetting of ingredients and products (meat and non-meat) for halal compliance.
This is a point where AHF works with administrative staff to help qualify vendors, vet ingredients, and establish standards for procurement. With our expansive database of vendors and qualified and disqualified ingredients
Cooking and Handling
Another critical element of maintaining a halal program, once halal ingredients and products have been assessed for compliance and approved, is the cooking and handling processes. Contamination or cross-contamination at any level of the process, from receiving, staging, processing, cooking, storage, and transportation, would change the status of the meals from halal to haram (prohibited/non-halal).
In correctional facilities where halal and haram meals are served, it is imperative that the facility have the appropriate protocols to avoid contamination and cross-contamination and ensure proper sanitation procedures are in effect.
Correctional Facility Halal Certification
AHF works with facilities nationally to develop halal programs that adhere to international halal standards with documented protocols to preserve the integrity of the halal identity of the meals. Additionally, AHF works in conjunction with institutional administrative staff to provide training to those responsible for cooking and handling food and beverages.
Maintaining an effective halal certification program prevents litigation and inspires trust in the procurement, cooking, and handling processes.
Food Assistance Programs
Government institutions on the federal, state, and local levels maintain various food assistance programs to provide food security, reduce malnourishment, and feed populations affected by disasters.
With halal consumer populations concentrated in some geographic regions reaching a substantial percentage of the population, many institutions seek to provide halal meals to their community. For example, AHF has certified over 5 million halal meals for COVID-19 food assistance programs.
Generally, procurement of special dietary meals is contracted to 3rd party commercial kitchens that prepare packaged meals that are then delivered to the end consumer. When seeking a vendor to supply halal meals, it can be challenging to ascertain if the vendor is genuinely qualified to provide halal meals and if the meals they provide are indeed in accordance with halal dietary guidelines. Specifically, as the meals often contain various ingredients and products that are not certified, it can be challenging to determine whether the vendor in question is genuinely suited for halal production.
Additionally, the vendor may produce other non-halal items such as pork-based products that would create complications in terms of cross-contamination of the halal production.
Food Assistance Programs Halal Certification
AHF has worked with various organizations to enable them to achieve their foods assistance program’s objective while maintaining halal compliance. AHF works with tight deadlines to determine the compliance of vendors and, if they qualify, provide certification to enable proper inspection and supervision of the supply chain. Once certified, stakeholders at the various levels can have confidence in the program and ultimately inspire trust for meal/product recipients.
Military Meals Programs
Did you know that the Meal Ready to Eat “MRE” was developed by a Muslim scientist, Dr. Abdul Rahman? Working from Natick Labs on this project, Dr. Abdul Rahman worked on freeze-drying techniques to create a more versatile and resilient nutritional solution for the Department of Defense. He was awarded the Meritorious Civilian Service award for his work.
MRE production is a complex manufacturing process that entails the amalgamation of various unique and specific raw material components and advanced packaging technologies to deliver nutrition under challenging conditions.
When building a halal program, it is crucial to assess each of the components against the halal standard to ensure the integrity of the halal identity of the food is preserved. This entails looking at raw materials, packaging technologies, and production.
As MREs change with improvement in various technologies and formulation, AHF leverages its first-in-class client service staff to adapt the halal program dynamically to include addendums and changes.
MRE Halal Certification
AHF plays an important role in the supervision, inspection, and certification of halal meals. AHF is proud to certify SOPAKCO as a national leader in the manufacturing of MREs for emergency and military applications. AHF reviews formulations, procurement, production, and packaging of MREs to ensure they meet international halal standards.