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Growing Halal Sensitivity

"The message spread through WhatsApp is false and is a slander" - Sahabat Halal
 Inbisco Marketing & Sales Sdn Bhd, the distributor of Kopiko L.A. White Coffee, published a one-page advertisement on The Sun newspaper on 10 February 2014 clarifying that the coffee is halal. The company was responding to rumours or ‘slanders’ as the company puts it to “discredits its products through false allegations across all media channels.”  According to Inbisco, which distributes Indonesia’s PT Mayora Indah’s products, the E472e emulsifier has been verified of plant origin and is halal certified by the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI), recognised by Malaysia’s halal certifying body JAKIM.

Sahabat Halal, a Facebook community in Malaysia aiming to increase the awareness about halal among its members, has given a good explanation to discredit the rumour on the ‘non-halal’ status involving the E code. The site also asked its members to stop circulating the rumour in the social media. Sahabat Halal, established on Facebook on 11 June 2013, represents a new wave of grassroots halal rights group in Malaysia. Its missions are to educate consumers about halal and uncover companies illegally using the halal certification. Sahabat Halal, which has its official site at http://sahabathalal.com/ also serves to clarify and verify the halal status of products. One example shows Sahabat Halal carifying that Tabasco has been certified halal since 16 June 2012.

The sensitivity surrounding halal is understandable as some irresponsible companies have illegally used the halal logo or have not applied halal on their products. The growing sensitivity is also a reflection of the heightened awareness about halal among Muslim consumers in Malaysia.

The implication of the halal-before-you-eat problem is that F&B companies need to do more halal-related PR to regain the confidence of Muslim consumers. This is particularly true for companies that depend on the Malay consumers such as The Chicken Rice Shop, which serves halal Hailam chicken rice. Chinese consumers rarely go to The Chicken Rice Shop because they can get even better chicken rice from the Chinese chicken rice stalls. Doubts about the halal status of The Chicken Rice Shop surfaced in 2013 but was later verified by Jakim that The Chicken Rice Shop was indeed halal. Despite the reassurance from Jakim, it is near impossible to stop users to continue to spread such rumours on the internet, which points again to the need by companies to engage the social media community more actively.



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