Halal and other Third Party Certification findings in new Senate report
The Australian Senate’s Economic References Committee on 1 December 2015 released its report on “Third Party Certification of Food” in Australia.
The Senate considered numerous private certification systems for a range of food claims such as nutrition, product origin, environmental sustainability, compatibility with religious belief systems, dietary choices, organic and other ethical-sourcing issues in food marketing.
Third party certification schemes are used to promote particular characteristics in products to consumers through the use of licensed logos and trademarks. These can only be displayed where specific standards have been met.
Some 1492 submissions were received from consumers, industry and government agencies and three public hearings were held.
As expected, the Report gave a strong focus to halal certification schemes for food products, with the Committee recommending the introduction of nation-wide consistent halal certification systems.
Committee chairman Senator Sam Dastyari of the ALP said it was an inescapable fact that halal certification is poorly understood, and arguably under-regulated, certainly in the domestic market.
“This compromises the integrity of the system and has allowed questionable conduct by certifiers of questionable expertise, and questionable intent,” he said.
The Report made seven recommendations which are follows:
Recommendation 1: That food manufacturers clearly label products which have received third party certification.
Recommendation 2: That the government, through the Department of Agriculture, consider the monitoring and compliance of halal certification of meat for export; and becoming the sole signatory on the government halal certificate.
Recommendation 3: That the government, through bilateral and multilateral forums, promote greater acceptance of a ‘whole–of-country’, government-led halal certification system.
Recommendation 4: That the government consider requiring certification bodies to register their operations under certification trademarks.
Recommendation 5: That the government consider requiring that halal certification of goods in the domestic market comply with the standard agreed for export.
Recommendation 6: That the halal certification industry consider establishing a single halal certification authority and a single national registered certified trademark.
Recommendation 7: That meat processors clearly label products sourced from animals subject to religious slaughter.
Availability of information
Some submissions queried a lack of information provided through food label certification schemes, including a lack of information on who the certifying body is or what needs to be done in order to gain certification; what checks and audits are undertaken; and whether profits are being made and where the profits go.
A number of submissions from business and governments suggested that current labelling practices were sufficient and that mandating the disclosure of further information was unnecessary. Both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Industry and Science suggested a better approach was a market-driven, self-regulatory system.