CAPE TOWN – A South Africa-based meat supplier is reportedly labeling pork as halal to sell to the country’s Muslim minority, sparking fury in the heavyweight African state.
"Evidence came to our attention that the Orion Cold Storage Company in Cape Town has been importing pork products from Belgium and Ireland, relabeling them as halal sheep and veal products,” Maulana Saeed Navlakhi, of the SA Meat Industry Company (Samic) told VOC.
He said that the company is also accused of relabeling kangaroo meat from Australia and buffalo meat from India as halal.
“At this stage, we don't have enough information on how far reaching the impact of this alleged practise is,” he said.
“But we can only imagine that the ramifications will be massive since this is a very large importer and distributor of products, both in South Africa and Southern Africa."
Islam considers pigs unclean because they are omnivorous, not discerning between meat or vegetation in their natural dietary habits unlike cows and sheep for instance, which eat only plants.
Muslims do not eat pork and consider pigs and their meat filthy and unhealthy to eat.
The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
Now other goods and services can also be certified as halal, including cosmetics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and financial services.
Navlakhi said that the allegation is the “iceberg” of a larger scandal.
This was merely the "tip of the iceberg and only Allah knows how long this has been happening,” he said.
Maulana Igsaan Hendricks, the president of the Muslim Judicial Council, which issues halal certificates, agrees.
“At this stage, we don’t have know all the details yet, so it is too early to comment, but there have been genuine concerns about this company,” he said.
He said the council will launch an internal probe into the scandal.
“This issue affects all Muslims and an investigation is imperative. This is why we will be working with Sanha (South African National Halal Industry) and others to get to the bottom of the matter.”
The Cape Town-based company, however, denies the allegations, describing the claims as a smear campaign by rival businesses.
It, however, acknowledged that some pork may have been labeled halal.
The company alleged that its rivals paid some of its employees to switch products and labels before being loaded on to trucks destined for South Africa's main province, Gauteng.
Muslims make up to 1.5 percent of South Africa's 44-million population, according to 2001 census.