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How Halal is your Halal?
Halal - the real deal?
Each year more than £2bn is spent on Halal meat by British Muslims. It's a market that is growing all the time. But how can consumers be certain that what they are eating is authentically Halal?
For Britain's two million Muslims Halal is a word that defines how to live every area of life devoutly.
Meat can only be called Halal if the animal is blessed before it is slaughtered.
Its throat is cut straightaway - something Muslims believe is less stressful to the animal.
There is controversy over the issue of stunning. Some Muslims believe the animal should not be stunned before slaughter but others believe this is acceptable.
Some Halal meat producers will stun, others will not.
A question of trust
Britain's Muslim community makes up 3% of the total UK population - but consumes 20% of all red meat sold.
Seal of approval - Halal chicken.
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra from the Muslim Council of Britain says, "Halal basically means pure and permissible.
"When a Muslim thinks about Halal, it is not only to do with diet and drink but it is to do with all our actions."
But how can the Muslim consumer be sure that what's served up is authentically Halal?
Traditionally, it has been a matter of trust.
But now some customers are looking for extra guarantees.
The Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC) is trying to get slaughterhouses, shops and restaurants to subscribe to an inspection regime.
The not-for-profit organisation allowed Inside Out's cameras to follow inspectors checking up on members.
Faz Mulla from the group remembers a time when Muslim families were able to see for themselves if their meat was authentically Halal.
"When I was a youngster, there were many Halal shops... We used to go to slaughter houses with my father, just around the corner and pick up a chicken, a live chicken, and slaughter them in the house or in the garden.
"We picked the animal ourselves, we bought it home ourselves and the act of making the chicken Halal was done by ourselves. So it was an absolute guarantee of Halal."
Today slaughtering at home is illegal and it's left to Muslim consumers having to trust slaughterhouses.
Faz Mulla wants the system to be properly scrutinised.
He says, "We're trying to instil that confidence once again to consumers who want to know that the products that they are eating are genuinely Halal...
"What the Halal Monitoring Committee does is... we have inspectors present who observe the Halal criteria being met."
Meet the inspectors
Inside Out met the inspectors who are trying to give the Muslim community extra guarantees can really make a difference.
The team gained access to a Halal slaughterhouse to see the lengths that have producers go to, to make sure what they produce is Halal.
Authentic Halal chicken hanging up.
John Summers, a Christian who runs the business, explains how important it is that the correct procedures are adhered to:
"It's of paramount importance to us.
"We are not Muslims, we're Christians, but there's a lot of so-called Halal products on the market which perhaps have been slaughtered at other Muslim slaughterhouses which haven't gone through the correct Halal criteria which we have done.
"So it's very dear to our hearts that everything we produce here is true Halal."
Inside Out discovered how one restaurant in Derby appeared confused about what the HMC does.
Staff told undercover reporters the business was certified by the HMC although the restaurant's manager says staff have told him they don't recall the conversations and there's no evidence the restaurant was selling non Halal meat.
The HMC says the restaurant isn't a member of its scheme but the butcher the restaurant's manager says supplies the meat is.
But schemes like the HMC can only give customers extra assurances.
Fundamentally, as the case we looked at in Derby shows, there's still one thing the system rests on above all else - trust.
last updated: 18/11/2008 at 09:40