Make halal certification for hotels mandatory

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) views with concern recent media reports that a majority of hotels in Malaysia still do not have halal certificates from the Department of Islamic Development, Malaysia or JAKIM.

A news report in a Malay daily yesterday (Aug 18, 2010) said the Ramadan buffet food served at 70% of the hotels in the Klang Valley are not halal, and in some instances, even alcohol is used in preparing the food.

This indeed is a very serious matter. It is also a clear indication of how lightly the issues of halal and haram food are taken by these hotels, which appear to show no regard for the sanctity of Islamic practices, particularly during this holy month of Ramadan.

It is sad that in Malaysia, Ramadan is highly commercialised and is made out to be a month of indulgence. Hotels, restaurants and other eating places display and sell a variety of food. Malaysians can be found indulging in food, whereas Allah s.w.t. in Surah Al A’raf, verse 31, said:

O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer; eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for God loveth not the wasters.

Buffet meals are often described as wasteful, overindulgent and should not be prescribed during this holy month.

There is need for a comprehensive mechanism whereby all hotels and restaurants serving halal food are registered with the State Islamic Affairs Departments, with their names and addresses also posted on the websites of the departments for checking or verification by Muslims.

These hotels and restaurants should also be periodically monitored by the state Islamic departments and also by JAKIM and food technologists to determine that they comply with their halal certifications.

On its part, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry should aggressively monitor the situation and act against unscrupulous operators who violate the Trade Descriptions Act 1972.

CAP therefore calls on the Government to make it mandatory for hotel operators serving food to Muslims to obtain halal certificates for their premises so that consumer rights are not neglected.

Procedures pertaining to the processing and packaging of food that is halal also need to be monitored on a regular basis as most hotels in the country use the services of foreign experts who may not be clear about the concept of halal food.

In the meantime, the Tourism Ministry-backed Ramadan Summer Fest is going on at I-City in the Klang Valley. It is incumbent on the ministry, which targeting the fest at visitors from the Middle East, to ensure that all food served is halal.

CAP also calls on Muslims in the Klang Valley, and in the other parts of the country as well, to ensure that the places they dine in for the breaking of the fast, or on other occasions as well, bear the halal certification from JAKIM or the State Islamic Affairs Departments.

CAP press release, 19-8-2010