Purchasing a candy bar, chocolate, or any other foreign food from a supermarket or a small shop has become a regular practice in Ethiopia, particularly in Addis Ababa. Food labels can be confusing or even deceptive, and even meat-free items may include hidden animal byproducts.
Pig fat and other animal products are used as ingredients in imported products such as sweets, pastries, ice cream, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.
Unassuming religious countries such as Ethiopia import the commodities, and people consume them unaware during fasting days and in general.
“It required a documentary called ‘What the Health?’ to learn what goes into processed food and how we eat it without inquiry. For a while, I was horrified by it, but as time passed, I approached it with care,” Selam Engida said when questioned if she checks to see if her food is halal.
Contrary to popular opinion, halal food refers to approved food, which includes food permitted by Abrahamic religions. These products are certified after a comprehensive inspection in accordance with predefined standards.
The first halal and tourist expo was held in Addis Ababa last week to highlight the industry’s latent potential. The expo, which began in the presence of government, religious leaders, and other stakeholders, showcased enterprises that produce halal-certified items.
The expo was opened by the Minister of Agriculture, Oumer Hussien, who remarked that the expo will play an important role in promoting the country’s potential in the halal industrial sector.
While having the most cattle in Africa, Ethiopia only exports 17,000 tons of cattle meat to the Middle East, earning USD 110 million despite having a bigger potential.
Binmelik Abdo, the CEO of Eatsafe certification, noted that despite the distance, countries such as Brazil send more to the Middle East since their meat is halal certified.
“Brazil sends 350,000 tons of cattle meat to the Middle East, earning millions upon millions of dollars, but Ethiopia could have greater success owing to capacity and geography,” he said.
Oumer believes Ethiopia has a lot of potential to reach the Middle East market for meat and other agricultural products.
Ethiopia’s geographical proximity to the Middle East was also mentioned as a possible benefit the country could use to reach the Arab world. In order to acquire the trust of the Middle Eastern market, the government must strengthen its halal certification of livestock products, according to Binmelik.
Regardless of whether or not you are a Muslim, the strict ethical requirements that food products must follow in order to be considered halal result in high quality standards, making halal food a preferred choice. After hearing and reading about the expo, some consumers believe that halal food has numerous health and ethical benefits.
“After hearing the number of unpalatable components that go into the processed food we carelessly consume, I’ve learned to look for the halal certificate on products even if I’m not Muslim,” Selam added.
People prefer to eat food that does not contain chemicals derived from human hair, beaver anal discharge, or pig fat, as these are found in many of the products used as food in today’s modern world.
Meals safety and hygiene are given top priority in halal food. This means there is also a lower rate of food contamination. Animals must be cared for and fed healthy, clean feed and halal farmers avoid using antibiotics and pesticides.
The expo aimed to promote halal tourism, which would allow families from the Middle East to visit the country and bring in much-needed foreign currency. Because most hotels do not offer halal options, the tourist flow isn’t as strong as it could be. The occasion illustrated how halal-certified hotels could increase the country’s tourist capacity.
The event highlighted tour and travel firms who went above and beyond to meet the halal criteria, resulting in a more inclusive environment. It also featured large supermarkets such as Shoa and Queens, demonstrating their willingness to serve customers with halal-certified products.
Even though nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, and India have a large demand for meat and would want to import it in volume from Ethiopia, they have been unable to do so since Ethiopia lacks a halal certification system.
Only international quality standards, such as ISO certificates, are implemented by the state regulating authority.
“There is an information vacuum; individuals are unaware of what they are consuming. In the future, we intend to raise awareness. The Ethiopian Food and Drug Administration can work with us to assure the quality of our imported items “Binmelik concluded.