Brunei takes 'Halal' issue very seriously
By Hj Minor Absah & Azaraimy HH

Brunei Darussalam is showing the world that it takes the issue of 'Halal' very seriously.

The Sultanate has stepped up its efforts to ensure strict adherence to its interpretation of 'Halalness' for producers, restaurateurs and food outlets operating around the country.

Towards the enforcement of the Order, a committee has been set up comprising officers from the Islamic Religious Council, State Judiciary, Agriculture Department, Ministry of Industry & Primary Resources, Ministry of Health, Islamic Judicial, Halal Food Control Division and Syariah Affairs at the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

This committee has been busy drawing up the guidelines of the Order for proprietors, managers and supervisors. It is also responsible for selecting officers to carry out inspection and enforcement duties.

Earlier this month, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam consented for the enforcement of the Halal Certificate and Label Order 2005. Its implementation will be made in stages and will cover every aspect of food production, preparation and even sales.

Meanwhile, local and foreign entrepreneurs have jumped onboard the bandwagon to apply for the Brunei Halal certificate and label, to reassure the public that all of their products are 100 per cent 'Halal'.

A number of restaurant operators have expressed their interest to apply for the 'Halal' certification. Although applications have not yet been open, several operators of restaurants have taken the initiative to ensure that their premise would be good enough to be certified as 'Halal' by the relevant authorities. Applications for the 'Halal' certification would hopefully be open by December 2008.

The Weekend Bulletin understands that the requirements for the 'Halal' certification for restaurants would be "very strict". For instance, each restaurant has to have two 'Halal' food supervisors approved by the Islamic Religious Council. These supervisors can only work for one particular outlet or restaurants and they will not be allowed to work or supervise anywhere else except with proper permission by the authority.

Inspection officers, meanwhile, will be conducting checks on various premises to ensure that all ingredients used are indeed 'Halal' and that the area where food is prepared is deemed acceptable by the authorities. If needed, officers can request to have suspicious food or equipments analysed at laboratories.

It was reported that the new order will give authority to the Halal Food Control Section to close a restaurant if it was deemed to contravene with the Order.

Yesterday, a new restaurant in Gadong asked for assistance from the Halal Food Control Unit at the Syariah Affairs Department to 'cleanse' their premises before opening for business. This was a preemptive move by the operator to make it easier for the restaurant to apply for the 'Halal' certification.

A total of eight officers from the Halal Food Control, who were led by Hj Ali Hassan bin Hj Ahmad, demonstrated the 'cleansing' ritual according to the Islamic guidelines to the staff of the restaurant.

The enforcement of the Halal Certification and Label Order has been considered an important move since local entrepreneurs are attempting to penetrate the global 'Halal' food market, which is now considered the biggest in the world due to the growing Islamic population.

Local food distributors and producers have voiced their support to the Brunei Premium Halal Label, as it will add value and stronger assurances from consumers.

The Sultanate is currently holding the third International Halal Product Expo 2008, that sees the largest participation in terms of the number of companies. This stands testimony to the commitment the nation has on the importance of halal products in the diversification of the economy.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian national news agency Bernama reported that His Majesty's Government is setting up a company to oversee the development of a halal brand in line with its move to be one of the major players of the halal brand globally.

"Besides halal certification, Brunei wants to develop a renowned brand that can be recognised not only locally but also internationally as a credible brand for quality halal products," said Normah S H Jamil, the Acting Director of the Agriculture Department of the Ministry of Industry & Primary Resources.

"We are in the process of establishing a company to manage the brand. It will also help and become a springboard for our small and medium entrepreneurs to promote and market their products to overseas market," she told Bernama on the sidelines of the Third International Halal Products Expo 2008. - Borneo Bulletin (16th August 2008)