Tensions simmer over halaal pork saga

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The Muslim Judicial Council Halaal Trust (MJCHT), which issues and regulates halaal certificates in South Africa, has come under fire for not being diligent enough in checking up on Western Cape frozen meat importer Orion Cold Storage.


Orion hit the headlines last year when allegations surfaced about illegal re-labelling on its premises. It is alleged that pork, which is forbidden under Islamic law, was re-labelled as halaal meat.

Groups critical of the MJC’s handling of the affair, such as People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) and the National Consumer Forum, have called on the MJC’s halaal unit to be scrapped. The MJC has rejected the call, saying it cleared only pre-certified halaal poultry and meat for Orion on a consignment basis and was not responsible for checking all of Orion’s imports.

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“The despicable crime committed at Orion Cold Storage has not in any way affected the sealed halaal chicken containers cleared by the MJCHT. We reassure our community that all imported meat and chicken cleared by the MJCHT are indeed halaal,” said MJC’s Moulana Abdul Khaliq E Allie.

The Red Meat Industry Forum, the SA Meat Industry Company, and 15 members of the SA National Halaal Authority took court action against Orion last year. Allegations include re-labelling of pork, buffalo and kangaroo meat as sheep or beef products, and in some instances as halaal, and importing non-food-grade milk powder for animal feed and re-labelling it as skim milk powder fit for human consumption.

Allegations also include importing water buffalo meat from India and selling it as beef, and re-labelling old expiry dates from broiler turkeys. Orion has since been stripped of its right to label imported meat as halaal. However, managing director Patrick Gaertner said illegal activities had taken place without Orion’s knowledge or consent.

“Orion has been the subject of a two-pronged vindictive sabotage of its business operation – one for blackmail and extortion, and the other for the benefit of its competitors. Orion is taking all possible steps to assist the police and SA Revenue Service in their investigations.

Civil claims will follow the criminal cases,” he said, adding that the charges had been laid against a former business associate and a family member of the associate. Gaertner said allegations that Muslims had been fed pork were untrue.

“Traceability of the pork incorrectly labelled has been supplied to the authorities,” he said. “The product was used in the manufacture of non-halaal products at an establishment generally used to manufacture meat products containing pork.

The buyer of this product has supported Orion investigators and the police, and has issued a statement that he is neither halaal-certified, nor does he produce halaal products. Allegations that Muslims have been ‘fed pork for years’ are untrue. Only product bought and certified as halaal has been labelled as such.”