Halal Certification of Herbs and Spices
The herb and spice industry is currently valued at 4 billion USD, and this large global market brings opportunities as well as challenges. In an article in the peer-reviewed journal Food Control, industry experts explain that adulteration is a constant problem in the herb and spice industry. With demand increasing, some manufacturers are tempted to stretch quantities of expensive spices with cheap fillers like starch, flour, or even non-edible materials like brick dust. Expensive and popular products such as vanilla, saffron, paprika, turmeric, and oregano are some of the most commonly targeted. Manufacturers may also add artificial colorants in an attempt to improve the appearance, and thus the value, of their products. This can pose serious health risks to consumers if toxic or allergenic ingredients are added.
Reporting on the journal article, industry website SecuringIndustry.com explained that a particular challenge for verifying the purity of these products is that supply chains are long, often stretching across multiple continents and passing through many hands. Each step is a potential opportunity for economically motivated adulteration, as well as accidental contamination. In addition, the popularity of ground and crushed spices that are easy for consumers to use also makes it easy to conceal the addition of adulterants.
Current industry techniques for purity analysis include visual and microscopic inspection by experts and increasingly advanced techniques such as mass spectrometry, DNA analysis, and chemometrics. While these advanced techniques are more effective at detecting fraud, they are time-consuming and expensive, and food safety agencies struggle to keep pace. As a result, it can be difficult to assure consumers that the products you sell are 100% pure. This is where Halal certification plays a role. Since it verifies each step of the process, adding a Halal certification to packaged herbs and spices will help assure consumers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, that the product is pure and meets the highest quality standards.
Halal certification is particularly relevant for the herb and spice sector for other reasons as well. A wide variety of herbs and spices are essential ingredients in the flavorful cuisines of many countries with large Muslim populations, such as Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Turkey. For Halal consumers in or from these regions looking for high-quality ingredients to make popular dishes, Halal certification provides assurance that the herbs and spices are pure and acceptable under Islamic dietary law. Similarly, restaurants that cater to largely Muslim populations or that specifically offer Halal food will appreciate seeing a Halal seal on the products they use.
Halal certification is necessary for consumers to be sure that any animal products and processed or packaged foods are compliant with Islamic dietary standards. Most herbs and spices are sold in forms that are somewhat processed: they are usually separated from other parts of the plant, dried, and ground, and they may be mixed with salt or other spices. These steps ensure convenience and a long shelf life, but also make it impossible for consumers to be sure that the product has been handled properly and has not been mixed with any prohibited foods. A Halal seal on herbs and spices offers consumers this assurance and makes them stand out in the market.
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