Halal food in the canteen

In Australia we have many people who identify as Muslim and who follow the religious customs of Islam. Many Muslims also abide by the laws of Islam that dictate what food can and cannot be eaten. Halal (an Arabic word meaning ‘lawful’ or ‘permitted’), is a term is given to food that may be consumed according to Islamic law. For more information on the religious context of halal foods, please follow this link: http://www.icv.org.au/index.php/publications/what-is-halal

According to Islam, there are certain foods and beverages that are considered ‘unlawful’ and therefore are prohibited. These include:

  • Pork, bacon, ham and pig products or derivatives
  • Animal products from non-halal sources including gelatin, stock and fat
  • Some enzymes, emulsifiers and additives of non halal origin

To be considered halal, meat, poultry, fish and their products must be prepared according to Islamic law. All fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, eggs and most dairy products (depending on additives) are automatically halal, as long as they do not touch or come into contact with foods that are not halal. Vegetarian dishes can be useful halal options in a canteen. However, caution should be taken as many contain gelatin, stock, enzymes, emulsifiers and additives, which may not be halal. Cheese that contains rennet is not considered halal.

Running a halal canteen

If your school has a large Muslim population that requires halal food to be served, Halal Australia recommends that the canteen prepare all food products as halal to avoid any cross contamination. If needed you can contact a halal certifier and undergo halal certification to reassure yourself and the community that you are abiding by the laws. Please note that fees and charges may apply for this certification. For more information contact Halal Australia at www.halal-australia.com.au.

Preparing halal food within your canteen

If the Muslim population at your school is not the majority, but you’d like to cater for children who require halal foods, Healthy Kids Association suggests talking with the parents at your school about their needs and putting a system in place that satisfies requirements.

Cross contamination is an issue when preparing halal foods. Halal foods should be stored, prepared and served in a different area of the canteen. Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Use a separate counter, chopping board and utensils for all halal food preparation to avoid cross contamination, taking special care with pork products such as ham and bacon, which are not halal.
  • Ensure all utensils, equipment, dishes and food preparation surfaces are cleaned and sanitised thoroughly before use.
  • Store and cook halal foods separately. If possible, use different fridges and ovens. Otherwise, always store and cook halal foods on the shelf above foods that are not halal to prevent cross-contamination through dripping.
  • Clearly label all halal dishes and raw products in the canteen.

Providing pre-packaged halal foods

At some schools you may only need to provide a few halal food options on the menu. If this is the case, there are many pre-packaged products available that may be useful. To ensure the food you provide is halal, contact the manufacturer directly. Even if a food product has a halal symbol, it is best to contact the manufacturer and check the halal certification is still valid.  Always label halal products clearly and when possible serve the food in its original package, to prevent cross-contamination.

Buying halal foods

There are many websites that list products that are halal certified. However, keep in mind that ingredients are subject to change and these lists can quickly become out of date. Halal Australia is a good resource for people looking for information on buying halal foods:

http://www.halal-australia.com.au/consumers/

Don’t forget that Muslim parents and family members are a great resource to help you better cater for students requiring halal food, so ask for advice from your community when you need it.