Packaging is a growing source of porcine contamination for Halal foods as result of animal fat-based lubricants used in production of some paper-based materials leaching into products, a laboratory test company has said.
Genetic ID Europe issued the warning after finding positive pork traces in a number of Halal samples - with the source of the contamination traced back to stearates or lubricants used in paper packaging machinery.
Some stearates contain animal derivatives including pork, which is prohibited under Halal law.
Halal foods are ones that are allowed under Islamic dietary guidelines. To comply with these, animals must be slaughtered in a prescribed fashion and foods cannot contain traces of banned - or Haraam – substances, such as pork and alcohol.
Company CEO Bill Thompson (pictured right) told FoodProductionDaily.com that recent analysis had uncovered the problem in countries such as Germany, the UK and France.
“The issue of cross contamination from packaging can be an issue because the stearate can effectively ‘leak’ into the food,” he said. “It is not a huge problem but people need to be aware and take precautions.”
Thompson added: “Some certification standards insist on packaging testing for porcine while others do not, so I would urge Halal food manufacturers to be vigilant about the issue and insist on rigorous testing and certification which also covers packaging.”
Packaging made from recycled paper may contain residues of pork from a previous use which can also leach in to Halal products, said the CEO.
Huge Halal growth, mixed supply chain
The Halal food segment, with an estimated global value of over US$600bn and made up of 1.6bn consumers, is a major growth market.
Opportunities to tap into this key segment have persuaded many players to process both non-Halal and Halal products in the same facilities – a so-called mixed supply chain.
“This creates the potential to leave residues of forbidden products if the producers do not have correct cleaning procedures in place,” said Thompson.
This coupled with the increasing sophistication of testing procedures that companies like Genetic ID Europe possess, means that positive results for Halal prohibited substances are happening more often, he added.
"As a quality control precaution, it would be a good idea to test to see if Halal products are in compliance with standards," he said.