The news suspended forks on their way to mouths, and sent supermarkets rushing to pull goods from shelves. Last month, the website Débat Halal claimed it had evidence that a popular brand of halal-certified poultry sausages marketed in France by a giant international food producer actually contain pork, rendering them forbidden — or haram — to Muslims. The accusation led many French Muslims to question how they can be sure that any of the halal food they buy meets certification standards — only to discover that no single set of standards exists for determining which products are halal and which aren't. Now, some observers are hoping that the haram hubbub may finally push France's Muslim leaders to agree upon a united code for the halal food sector — one of the biggest-booming niche markets in the nation.
The stir began when Débat Halal published a Jan. 16 report saying that tests had detected pork — a substance forbidden under both halal and kosher rules — within halal-branded poultry sausages produced by Herta, a unit of global food giant Nestlé. Counter-tests revealed by Herta a week later found no traces of pork in their Knacki Halal poultry sausages. Nevertheless, on Feb. 1, one of France's largest supermarket chains, Casino, removed the sausages from its stores to run its own test to "guarantee the strictest respect of halal certification." Still, the entire episode led Muslim consumers to wonder about the reliability of all the halal food they buy.