Halal Certification USA and Its Governing Dynamics
What role does religion have in America? As a secular country, it might strike as a peculiar question since the first clause in the Bill of Rights states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The immediate answer for a secular country would seem to be “none.” However, like many things, the answer is not that binary.
America was established on the premise of religious freedom. Many early immigrants sought to migrate to flee religious persecution. So at a fundamental level, the earliest settlers were concerned about the freedom to practice faith freely without interference from the state. So at some level, religion is an institutional imperative regarding its liberty and yet, at the same time, an independent domain free from institutional involvement.
Churches do not get taxed, kosher has laws protecting its status, and Christmas is a federal holiday. At some level, this is a balancing act.
With religion still being an essential part of modern society on the one hand and separation of church and state on the other, what are the governing dynamics? How does this relate to halal certification?
The short answer is that the government entrusts religious matters to the hands of independent organizations trusted by stakeholders, including (in the case of dietary regulations and food certification) consumers, manufacturers, suppliers, importers, exporters, retailers, etc.
There are a few leading religious food certification authorities whom stakeholders globally trust with utmost confidence. The American Halal Foundation (AHF) is a leading authority in the United States regarding halal certification, and its symbol is trusted by 2 billion consumers globally.
With the US producing more than 20% of the $1.5 trillion global halal food and beverage market, it begs the question, how does it all work?
What is Halal Certification?
Halal certification is an independent assessment, verification, and supervision of a company and its products concerning its conformity with international halal standards. Halal certification is conducted by internationally recognized and accredited certification bodies like AHF. You can learn more about halal certification here.
Is Halal Certification Required?
The requirement depends on the market you are seeking to serve. For example, almost invariably, halal certification will be required for proteins. However, for certain other products like produce, natural ingredients, and packaging, it would not be required but still recommended and essential to be successful in the commercial market.
Technically at the US Federal level, it is not mandated. However, on an international level, some countries like Indonesia, Qatar, Malaysia, Singapore, Kuwait, UAE, Brunei, etc., may require certification for certain imports.
US Legal Framework around Halal
At the federal level, there are a few key regulations around halal:
- USDA FSIS: Use of the terms, “Halal and Zabiah Halal” on labeling requires certification by an appropriate third party authority.
- Codex Alimentarius: General Guidelines for Use of the Term “Halal” (CAC/GL24-1997): This UN-approved document outlines some basic halal definitions. While this is not technically a US regulation, as the US is a member of the World Trade Organization, UN, and
Also, certain states have passed laws regarding halal.
AHF was instrumental in passing the “Halal Food Act” in Illinois.
The act includes several protections for halal, including prosecution for mislabelling, disallowing tampering with halal certification logos, and inappropriate self-certification.
The three significant clauses are:
- It is a Class B misdemeanor for any person to make any oral or written statement that directly or indirectly tends to deceive or otherwise lead a reasonable individual to believe that a non-halal food or food product is halal.
- The presence of any non-halal food or food product in any place of business that advertises or represents itself in any manner as selling, offering for sale, preparing, or serving halal food or food products only, is presumptive evidence that the person in possession offers the food or food product for sale in violation of subsection (a).
- It shall be a complete defense to a prosecution under subsection (a) that the defendant relied in good faith upon the representations of an animals’ farm, slaughterhouse, manufacturer, processor, packer, or distributor, or any person or organization which certifies or represents any food or food product at issue to be halal or as having been prepared under or sanctioned by Islamic religious requirements.
The complete act can be accessed here.
In New York, the main piece of legislation is the Halal Foods Protection Act which requires companies marketing their products and facilities as halal to register with the state of New York. The Department of Agriculture has a search portal for halal-registered companies.
The New Jersey Halal Food Consumer Protection Law states, “Any dealer who prepares, distributes, sells or exposes for sale any food represented to be halal shall comply with all requirements of the director, including, but not limited to, recordkeeping, labeling.”
The California Halal Food Bill passed unanimously in 2002 under California Penal Code 383c makes it a misdemeanor to defraud consumers about halal.
Texas regulates halal to the extent of truth in labeling, making it mandatory for retailers and companies to adhere to demarcate halal and non-halal to avoid confusion.
Virginia laws have laid a solid foundation for companies to obtain halal certification. The law states that:
“It is unlawful to label any repackaged food or food product or display or offer for sale any unwrapped food or food product that represents the food or food product as kosher or halal without indicating the person or entity authorizing such designation by providing the name or symbol of the authority or providing a phone number or website to access the information.”
AHF has observed that several local school districts in various states in the US are beginning to introduce halal meals. This is an effort by school districts to create a more inclusive learning environment for their students. This is a growing opportunity for foodservice companies.
Why is Halal Certification Important for US Companies?
1 in 4 consumers in the world consume halal and less than 10% of all products on retail shelves are actually halal certified. This asymmetry is massive, and while companies are increasing adoption, there is still an immense opportunity to capture some of this asymmetry.
On average, an AHF client will receive 10x their investment in halal certification.
How to get Halal Certification in the USA?
You can apply for halal certification by completing the online application here.