Since McDonald's restaurants notified that they will not proceed the offer of halal chicken sandwiches and nuggets at two of their restaurants, it revealed a meaningful problem annoying the Muslim community in America: irregular halal standards and fake marketing and advertising of products that are allowed by Islamic society.
The USA is now a place to thousands of businesses that accommodates to the industry of halal food by offering Muslim Americans a wide menu and comfort that was just a dream for earlier ages.
But this rising market of halal food is frequently accompanied by a lack of coherence about what defines halal — and that has resulted in a controversy and confusion among Muslim people in America. Furthermore, many well-known cases of fraud have left halal clients mistrustful about the sources of the food they are getting and vulnerable to unfair companies.
These issues arose when McDonald's notified it would stop selling halal sandwiches and nuggets at two McDonald's in Dearborn, Michigan. The decision pursues a 2011 lawsuit asserting McDonald's incorrectly advertised non-halal chicken as halal. In January, McDonald's paid 700 thousand dollars to pass the suit but disclaimed any wrong activities.
It's not the first arrangement in this field. In 2011, the lawyer of Orange County district in California acquired a settlement of 527,000 dollars against the Super King Market in Anaheim, assuring their store incorrectly offered mixed and generic meat as halal. The store disclaimed any wrongdoing.
"There's a lot of fraud," thinks Syed Rasheeduddin Ahmed, founder of the halal certification and educational group of Muslim Consumer Group in Huntley, Illinois. "I am pleased McDonald's discontinued that so-called halal chicken because it's not a real halal food."
Partly, the issue suspends from the blast of products racing to fulfill expanding demands of this market.
The amount of U.S. grocers with halal foods has increased to more than 2,300 in 2012, while there was only 10 in 1970, and, according to the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, a halal certification and education group in Park Ridge, Illinois, the number of restaurants that are offering halal food now exceeds to 6,900.
As nutrition council has informed, U.S. consumers used more than 11 billion dollars on halal foods in 2011.
"It's a huge market share," tells Timothy Abu Mounir Hyatt. He is managing director of Islamic Services of America, a halal certification group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and says that they have a lot of customers who realize the meaning of complying.
While Muslims, who comply halal foods, await the wider choice of foods, many of them are also cautious that some stores and restaurants may try and take benefit of their religious standards to get rid of foods that are not halal.
"As long as there are some legal limitations, there are often unfair companies that try to avoid them," affirms Shahed Amanullah, founder of Zabihah website that has customer reviews and listings of halal grocers and restaurants around the globe, including several thousand of them in the USA.
Certainly, the Zabihah website (its name comes from the definition that is used for the ritual slaughter of animals in the Muslim world) contains many summaries where you can find diners call out restaurants that are marked as incorrectly advertising halal food.
Halal means "legal" or "permitted" in Arabic, it demands that meat such as poultry, lamb, beef, and goat should be grown and killed humanely and that a prayer should be said during the slaughter. Non-halal foods include carnivorous and hunted birds and animals, as well as pork and foods made from pork, like, for example, gelatin. Vegetables, fish, nuts, grains, and fruits are also allowed.
But the industry of halal foods is hindered by another issue, too: dividing between Muslims. In the year 2006, a bunch of scholars dealing with Islamic law decided that animals that are slaughtered by machines are halal so long as they are killed and blessed properly. Still, many Muslim people, including Ahmed, representative of the Muslim Consumer Group, think that only meat that is hand cut is allowed as halal. Other people say that no restaurant can be considered as halal if it also offers forbidden items like alcohol and pork.
There are many organizations in the USA that approve products as halal food and send investigators into manufactories and slaughterhouses to make sure that their work is done by following to Islamic rules. Some of the states, including Illinois, California, Michigan, Virginia, and New Jersey, have accepted laws punishing companies for untrue advertising of products that are halal.
Some Muslim people think that guidelines and certification do not enough to defend halal clients from incorrect advertising. Meantime, halal certifiers do not have enough inspectors to control every individual grocer or restaurant, and instead, they concentrate on food manufacturers and slaughterhouses.
By knowing all the difficulties, what is a halal customer to do? The best protection against cheating, Amanullah emphasizes, is knowledge. He emboldens people to directly require more information from businesses owners about their halal foods or to check Zabihah site for latest reviews about all these places.
"Because of the lack of generally endorsed and approved standards of halal, clients should feel able to request for evidence of sources of halal meat so they can decide on their own," thinks Amanullah. "Companies that are intent to serving this market should be glad to please."