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March 15, 2014

Demand grows for halal food as industry evolves

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The global industry for halal food and lifestyle products — ones that meet Islamic law standards of manufacture — is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is multiplying as Muslim populations grow. Producers outside the Muslim world, from Brazil to the U.S. and Australia, are eager to tap into the market.

The United Arab Emirates is positioning itself to be their gateway, part of its push to become a global center of Islamic business and finance.

UAE officials announced last month that the city of Dubai has dedicated around 6.7 million square feet of land in Dubai Industrial City for a “Halal Cluster” for manufacturing and logistic companies that deal in halal food, cosmetics and personal care items.

Dubai Industrial City CEO Abdullah Belhoul said the idea to create a zone just for halal manufacturers was driven by the increased demand locally and internationally for such products.

“This industry itself, we know it is growing,” Belhoul told The Associated Press. He said the industry is expected to double in terms of value within five years. “So we think there is a lot of opportunity... and we need to capitalize on this.”

The world’s Muslim population is estimated at around 1.6 billion, and the majority is believed to adhere to or prefer to adhere to halal products when possible. The general understanding is that halal products should not be contaminated with pork or alcohol and that livestock is slaughtered in accordance with Islamic Shariah law. Similar to kosher practices, Islam requires the animal is killed with single slash to the throat while alive. It is intended as a way for animals to die swiftly and minimize their pain.

However, as with most issues in religion, opinions vary greatly over what is permissible and what is not. Despite attempts by international Islamic bodies, such as the World Halal Food Council, to achieve worldwide guidelines, there are no global standards for halal certifications.

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