Halal council to discuss meat cartel scandal in mid-March

The meeting will involve agencies and ministries under the Malaysia Halal Industry Development Council and touch on the fake halal meat scandal holistically


PRIME Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to meet food safety and religious officials in mid-March to discuss the fake halal meat scandal that has raised doubts about the government’s halal certification process.

The meeting, which will involve agencies and ministries under the Malaysia Halal Industry Development Council, will take place against the background of rising public distrust over the country’s “golden standard” halal status.

Malaysia is a top exporter of halal food, with exports amounting to RM35 billion to RM40 billion per annum in recent years. Additionally, about 60% of the country’s 33 million population are Muslims.

Halal Development Corp Bhd (HDC) CEO Hairol Ariffein Sahari (picture) said the entirety of the fake halal meat scandal would be addressed in the upcoming meeting.

“The council will discuss holistically, not just by looking into the meat cartel, but the industry’s integrity as well. We want to improve our halal certification process to the best possible level.

“In the end, we want to ensure that industry players can comply with government policies. We don’t want a policy that is not business-friendly,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Hairol Ariffein said the meeting, which Muhyiddin will chair, will include representatives from the Standards Malaysia Department, Islamic Development Malaysia Department (Jakim), the International Trade and Industry Ministry, the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry and HDC, which acts as council secretary.

Hairol Ariffein said HDC will be proposing sustainable approaches to the supply chain process for meat products to tackle the problem from the bottom up.

“One of the ways to tackle this issue is by building up and strengthening our local ruminant industry. The meat cartel exists because there is a huge demand for meat and meat products that our local production could not cater to,” he said.

He added that while it is fair to question Malaysia’s halal authority’s integrity, the public should not penalise the halal industry entirely as the meat cartel issue goes beyond halal certification.

“The meat cartel is a criminal matter, and crime happens everywhere. The integrity of our authority and the cartel are two different issues.

“People have to understand that the halal industry is not limited to meat and meat-based products,” he said.

The fake halal meat scandal was first exposed by a Malay daily in November last year. It was then reported that a freight company had been irresponsibly importing meat products not certified by Jakim.

The Malay daily, citing sources, reported that “insiders” were stationed at several international ports in the country and would help in falsifying the cargoes’ documents.

Subsequently, local authorities raided a warehouse in Senai, Johor, where the police seized 1,500 tonnes of imported frozen meat worth RM30 million.

Given the size of the seizure, the police suspected that the cartel operative was involved in a broader international network.

Former Agriculture Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub recently revealed that he and his family were offered an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe by a frozen meat importer linked to the meat cartel.

Salahuddin said he was approached by the meat importer when he first took office under the Pakatan Harapan administration in 2018.

Read our previous report here

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