Melbourne-based Cardia Bioplastics, one of very few companies in its field with a halal mark, got the certification to appeal to export businesses with large Islamic populations in South and South East Asia and the Middle East. Its office in 60% Muslim Malaysia, was instrumental in the move back in 2012.
To be registered halal, food and beverage companies must go through an inspection process that takes into account a number of factors, including packaging, labelling and logistics. As a result, it is not necessary for them to buy in certified-halal wrapping materials — but it helps, says Cardia’s executive director in Malaysia.
“Foods will already have met the halal requirement, so we are adding halal value to it,” said Kean Hwa Ong.
“It is for companies in the food industry that want to add to their halal status, who want their packaging to be halal too.
“Our customers can get fast-track halal certification by proving that they use our materials because our resins are already certified halal. Not many of our competitors have halal certification for their raw materials.”
It’s up to a food manufacturer to decide how far it wants to take its interpretation of halal, such as if it wants to follow a very strict requirement to the packaging. In Malaysia, government departments and linked companies often seek to wear their halal-ness on their sleeves, giving Cardia an advantage in this regard.
“It is definitely good for business in countries like Malaysia. It gives our customers confidence to supply to these companies and departments,” Ong added.
Plastic packaging is seen as a neglected segment of halal certification, with the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), arguably the biggest and most influential in the world, only publishing vague details to cover it.
The key factor to determine whether the materials for packaging are halal or not is their traceability, which leads to complications for recycled plastics, says Syazwan Talib, assistant professor of halal logistics at Universiti Brunei Darussalam, an expert in the field.
In this case, auditors would have to investigate what the components had originally wrapped, how they were labelled and the way they were stored.
“To an extent, it sounds quite ridiculous. Then again, in order to tick off the source of the original materials, it will have to go down to the very minor details. It’s no surprise that people tend to neglect the packaging,” Dr Syazwan said.
This is of no concern for Cardia, though, as the company supplies resins that are compostable and biodegradable, so by nature they are not recycled.
“Meeting the strict halal criteria imposed by Islamic law is universal recognition that our resins are safe to use in food packaging applications, and that consumers can place trust in our products,” said Ong.