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Food companies drop kosher labels following anti-halal movement

Many of the 600 Australian food manufacturers that are kosher-certified have chosen to drop certification amid national anti-halal campaigns, according to Jewish groups.

Kosher and halal labels certify that foods are free of alcohol and pork products, while meat products must be killed and blessed according to the respective faiths.

Extreme lobby groups, such as ‘Reclaim Australia’, Boycott Halal and Halal Choices have made bogus claims that halal-certification funds terrorism and have urged Australians not to buy such products.

Some companies have caved into the anti-halal lobby, in spite of food export opportunities and domestic markets that halal certification opens up for Australian businesses.

“If some companies now choose to withdraw the symbols from their packaging it will inevitably alienate Jewish and Muslim consumers who rely on the symbols to know which brands and products they can consume.”

– Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry

Now some kosher-labelled food manufacturers may be running scared, according to Yankel Wajsbort, general manager of Kosher Australia, who cited anecdotal evidence that certification is being dropped.

“One particular company had the kosher logo and they pulled it off and we asked why are they doing this and they said, ‘We’ve had some issues with some consumers who are concerned’.”

Wajsbort said Australian Jews still knew what they could and couldn’t buy. “If it were in America it would be different because people there look at kosher symbols, but in the past  40 years, here in Australia we’ve put out an updated kosher guide and even have an app as well as a hard copy book.  So people already know what is kosher-compliant and what is not.”

Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said, “If it is true that some companies have decided that the broader market will reject their products simply because they also cater to Jewish or Muslim consumers, that is a deeply troubling development and a commentary on the state of religious tolerance in this country at the present time."

“The decision by some companies to display kosher or halal symbols on their packaging is generally a commercial choice to accommodate observant Jewish and Muslim consumers by informing them that the product does not breach their dietary laws."

“If some companies now choose to withdraw the symbols from their packaging it will inevitably alienate Jewish and Muslim consumers who rely on the symbols to know which brands and products they can consume,” Goot said.

Giving dietary needs a fair go

In early May,  Australia’s first Halal Food Expo at Fairfield Showground was supported by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who said in a media statement that such events “ help to increase our understanding of this growing industry.”

Halal Food Expo organisers said they aimed to counter ignorance with food appreciation and harmony.

Syed Atiqul Hassan, director of the Halal Food Expo, said, “The event concluded... that Australians love multicultural events, (and) respect reach others culture, tradition and way of life.” 

Yet extreme lobby groups, such as the Kirralie Smith-led Halal Choices, maintain that halal certification is “linked to funding terrorism overseas” and has called for investigations into the halal food industry.

AUSTRAC, the federal government agency that tracks terrorist funding, has told The Point Magazine there is no evidence that halal certification funds terrorists.

A federal parliamentary inquiry announced this year will investigate food labelling and how food certifications are acquired thorugh the local kosher and halal food industries, as well as organic, genetically-modified and other food labelling.

The Point

Some food companies have dropped kosher labels amid the anti-halal movement that has made bogus claims about terrorist funding

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