rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Canada's halal food regulations don't go far enough

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

The Government of Canada's recent amendment to its Food and Drug Regulations, making it mandatory that any claims to a food product being halal be accompanied by the name of the certifying body or person, is a welcome first step.

The domestic halal market in the country is worth $1 billion annually and is growing exponentially with the increase in the Muslim population, which is expected to triple by 2031. In addition to Muslims, there are other groups which also comprise a significant proportion of halal consumers who value the halal products for health, safety, taste and cultural reasons.

The new labelling requirements provide these consumers with the vital information as to which certifier has deemed the product to be halal. This is a significant shift away from the current practice where many restaurants, food retailers and products affix a 'halal' sign without any information as to their justification for such a claim or to which standard they adhere to.

The market is lucrative and so are the chances to commit fraud by selling non-halal meat as halal. The problem is compounded by the fact that in spite of agreeing on the fundamentals there is no single universally accepted standard of halal either in Canada or elsewhere. The government has stayed away from imposing a standard from above and has instead left it to the community to arrive at a consensus if at all possible.

But it could have done several other things from which it has shied away thus making the amendment not meet its full potential rendering it ineffective.

The most important weakness in the amendment is that it doesn't regulate the certifiers. The backgrounder to the amendment says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will not 'establish requirements for becoming a certifying body.'

This essentially means that any person or group can certify and there is absolutely no oversight over their credentials or activities. Even a rudimentary knowledge of halal regulations or food production is not required to become a halal certifier. This is an open invitation for fraud to continue in the halal market.

As in the past there are many individuals, with no more than an access to a computer and a printer, who issue halal certificates with little or no inspection. This becomes even more problematic in the processed food and medicinal drug industries which involve complex ingredients and production processes and whose halal status can only be determined by a body with both religious scholars and food scientists & technologists on board.

The current regulations are also vague on the penalties for offenders of the regulation making the whole exercise effectively useless.

The CFIA presently regulates and approves Organic certifiers. It is puzzling why it can't do the same for halal and kosher certifiers. The government cannot shirk its responsibility by citing the lack of community consensus by excluding itself from facilitating such an exercise.

In 2011 the federal government gave $763,650 for the Canadian Kosher Food Safety Initiative with the aim to bring together various industry stakeholders and establish minimum standards which could be voluntary adopted. Lacking such government involvement keeps the door open to cartels and monopolies to reduce consumer choice.

This is already happening in the market with vested commercial interests using information networks like mosques, food festivals, and supply chains to exclude and discredit halal businesses as well as certification agencies just because they don't adhere to the certain criteria.

Attempts by private businesses to facilitate consensus have failed both because of conflict of interest as well as suspicion of poaching clients by rival certification bodies in the name of improving transparency.

In such a scenario the Canadian Kosher Food Safety Initiative can serve as a model for the halal industry. It will improve reliability of Canadian halal food products, strengthen consumer confidence, and enhance its reputation globally. Public-private partnership is essential for such an outcome.

Mohammed Ayub Khan is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at McMaster University. He also works as a consultant in the halal food industry.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.