The state has issued new guidelines on halal food labeling
that skirt the central question many Muslims had wanted to be answered:
Exactly what type of food can and cannot be considered pure in Islam?
Declining to involve itself in a religious debate, the state Division of
Consumer Affairs is requiring those who process and sell halal food to
complete disclosure forms outlining how meat and other items are handled.
That leaves it up to consumers to decide whether a particular item meets
their own standards of purity.
"The goal is to let people know what they're buying," said Yaser
El-Menshawy of Flemington, chairman of the Majlis Ash-Shura of New Jersey,
the state's council of mosques. "Right now, when you walk into a store to
buy something called 'halal,' you have no idea what that means.
"This at least lets you know what that particular person's definition of
halal is," he said…
Consumer Affairs officials said their goal was never to involve the state
in a religious matter that is open to considerable debate among various
factions. Instead, the guidelines are designed to give consumers enough
information to make their own educated choices.
The rules create four different disclosure forms that must be completed by
food handlers or merchants, depending on their role in the food chain.
There are separate forms for slaughterhouses that sell cattle, goats, sheep
and lambs; slaughterhouses selling poultry; retail establishments, and
The forms require slaughterhouses to specify, for example, which auctions
they buy animals from; whether their animals consume only feed that does
not contain animal byproducts; whether the animal is alive and not stunned
at the time of slaughter; whether the animal is hand-slaughtered with a
sharp knife by a Muslim who recited the required benediction, and whether
the animal is facing Mecca when it is killed.
It also forces slaughterhouses to say whether pigs are slaughtered on the
same premises, and if so, whether they are killed on separate equipment and
on the same day as halal animals…