Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chinese Companies Mislabeled Food As Halal Imports

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A number of companies in China are mislabeling domestically made food products as halal imports from Islamic nations in order to improve their market share in the Muslim-populated northwestern Xinjiang region, according to sources.
The products with foreign labels marking them Islamic-compliant are popular among Uyghurs who distrust the certification by China’s state-run Islamic body, sources in Xinjiang said.
One company contacted by RFA Uyghur Service, Tianren International Ltd., admitted it had been producing food products domestically and mislabeling them as certified halal goods from Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country.
“Our company was set up a long time ago and has grown to a large scale. We mainly produce halal foods for the whole Xinjiang region and net hundreds of thousands to several million yuan [annually],” or hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars, said the company’s director, surnamed Luo.
“We label our foods as a Malaysian brand and mark them halal, but most of the halal foods we send to Xinjiang are produced in our factory,” she said.
“We have a large market in Xinjiang,” she said, referring to the region's 9 million mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uyghurs.
When asked if the company could run afoul of authorities and lose consumers in Xinjiang if it was discovered that it was falsely labeling its products, Luo responded, “It’s not a problem.”
Tianren had been singled out on an online forum by Uyghurs as one of two companies said to be mislabeling products as coming from Muslim countries with exacting halal guidelines, when they were in fact being produced in China.
In messages on the Uyghur-language chat forum later deleted by Internet censors, the netizens said that they had been “cheated” by Tianren and an importer named Albert Lim, referring to them as “dishonest traders” that were retailing “fake halal foods.”
Muslims are barred under their religion from consuming non-halal items such as pork, alcohol, blood, and the meat of animals that have not been slaughtered based on religious practices.
Non-food products, such as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, are also are subject to halal standards.
Chinese companies importing “halal foods” from Muslim countries such as Malaysia are not vetted by the Islamic Association, and Uyghur sources said they would not trust the halal standards of the association even if they did.
There has also been a tendency for Uyghurs to boycott Chinese products following the July 2009 ethnic violence between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi that left nearly 200 people dead according to official reports.

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