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Speech by Cllr Jessica Crowe, Hackney Council's Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Environment.

 

Halal Food Safety Seminar 27 November 2004

 

Respected guests, ladies and gentlemen, Assalamu alaikum and good afternoon.

 

It is a privilege for me to address you on behalf of Hackney Council to open this very important occasion of Halal food safety promotion, which we are staging in partnership with:

·        The London Central Mosque & the Islamic Cultural Centre

·        Sulemaniye Mosque & UK Turkish Islamic Cultural Centre Trust

·        The Muslim Council of Britain &

·        The Food Standards Agency.

 

I look forward to hearing the contributions of the other speakers, who all know a great deal more than I do about this important subject, not least because I have been a vegetarian for 20 years! Although unfortunately I cannot stay for the whole conference due to other commitments, I know I will learn a lot from the contributions I hear.

 

The BSE outbreak has reminded us all that health problems in animals can sometimes have an impact on human health and that doing away with regulations in order to reduce bureaucracy and cut costs can sometimes have unintended and dangerous consequences.

 

This is not the place to make a political point, but regulation is not just about being an interfering Nanny State - it can help save lives by tackling real problems.

 

For example, the illegal bushmeat trade brings large quantities of this product into the human food chain from Africa every week. There is also an underground market for illegally slaughtered meat, often involving unhealthy animals slaughtered in unhygienic conditions.

 

You must have read the newspaper reports and seen the pictures of unfit meat and poultry on your TV screens concerning large scale operations involving the diversion of unfit meat into the human food chain.

These meat crimes threaten public health, violate people's religious belief and abuse their trust. It frequently involves cruelty to animals. The people who carry them out have no moral qualms even about potentially infecting the public with new variant CJD.

 

There is a lot of evidence to show that a large percentage of the meat sold as Halal has been mis-described. This is not only a health issue, but a cultural concern since Halal food should conform to Islamic Shariah law. This event aims to educate both traders and consumers especially from the Muslim community on how to get genuine Halal food.

Hackney Council will continue to target sellers peddling meat which is unfit for consumption or misdescribed as Halal.  Anyone caught engaging in such activities should be aware that they can be prosecuted.

In Hackney we have removed significant amounts of wrongly described meat and illegally imported foodstuff from the human food chain and we will continue to do so to protect public health. We are fortunate to have some excellent officers experienced in these matters and we will continue to use their skill and expertise to protect the public.

 

But this event is about building awareness and working in partnership with the community is the best way of doing so. I am very grateful therefore to:

·        The London Central Mosque & the Islamic Cultural Centre

·        Sulemaniye Mosque & UK Turkish Islamic Cultural Centre Trust

·        The Muslim Council of Britain &

·        Food Standards Agency.

 

These groups are able to reach out into communities better than the Council can on its own and to educate consumers and traders about the issues involved. I hope therefore that we will have many more initiatives like this in future. 

 

I am also aware that similar concerns exist in the Jewish community around the mis-selling of Kosher food and I hope that the lessons learnt from this event may be able to be applied for the benefit of one of Hackney’s other significant faith communities.

 

 Hackney has benefited for many years from the contributions made by different communities who have made their homes here and lived together in general harmoniously and in peace. It is therefore right that the Council works with such communities to protect their members - Hackney’s residents - using all the powers that we have at our disposal as a local authority.

 

Working together on practical issues such as this is a good way of building understanding across communities and with each other. As a non-Muslim I am able to learn more about your culture through events such as this and I value and welcome that and thank the community leaders here present again for your involvement and for working with the Council and welcoming me here to this event.

 

In conclusion, I would also like to say thank you on behalf of Hackney’s elected Mayor Jules Pipe who strongly supports this event, to all the staff from the organizations represented here, our own staff and the volunteers who have contributed to what I am sure will be a highly successful event.

 

Thank You.