Feature: DOST's HVL to ensure halal food integrity for belief, food safety and economy

Tuesday, January 23, 2018 12:03 AM    Views : 535by:GG/JG, PIA4A

CALAMBA CITY, Jan. 23 (PIA) -- "We Muslim believers ay very restricted po talaga yung pagkain ng mga ‘haram' products. Kapag sinabi po kasing haram ito po yung mga unlawful o hindi sa amin pine-permit based sa Quran," Department of Science and Technology Region IV-A (DOST IV-A) Science Research Specialist (SRS) Jasmin C. Hamid, a Muslim resident Chemist of the department, said in an interview. 

This is where the importance of the Halal certified products' authenticity comes into the picture. Through a Halal Verification Laboratory, it shall be ensured that the food and other products being consumed by Filipino Muslims and other Halal consumers are genuinely following the Halal standards. 

The DOST IV-A located in Los Banos, Laguna currently houses the first and only Halal Verification Laboratory (HVL) in CALABARZON region which is targeted to offer services by the second semester of this year. 

Pursuant to Republic Act 10817, which is "an act instituting the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Program, created for the purpose the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Board, and for other purposes," the DOST is mandated to support and devise Halal-related programs in terms of Science and Technology (S&T) and Research and Development (R&D). 

DOST IV-A Supervising SRS and Regional Standards and Testing Laboratory (RSTL) Head Emelita Bagsit explained, "May mandato yung DOST na mag-provide when it comes to S&T like testings, yung verification, confirmation kung may alcohol o may porcine… and also to conduct R&D for product development sa mga halal." 

Hence, the allocation of budget for the building of HVLs; the first one being located in Davao City and the second one in Los Banos, Laguna. 

According to DOST, Halal comes from the Arabic word which means permitted or allowed for Muslims to use or consume. It is based from Surah Al-Baqarah [2:168] – Al-Qur'an al-Kareem wherein God says, "O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth that is lawful (Halal) and good (tayyab)." 

With this, the Islamic dietary law requires food to be free from any forbidden contents including pork, pork-derived ingredients, and even alcohol; as well as from contaminants such as heavy metals, enzymes, emulsifiers, and toxins. 

In an infomercial by DOST, the department shares to the public that products with haram content may easily be remembered using the mnemonic ABCDIS. Whereas, A is for alcohol and drugs, B for blood, C for carnivorous animals and birds of prey, D for dead animals or birds that died itself before slaughter, I is for immolated food (e.g. sacrificed for rituals), and S is for swine and its by-products. 

Halal Certification, as the department defines, means having one's product marked with Halal seal signifying that the items passed the stringent requirements enforced by Halal certifying bodies recognized by the government. This also means passing through the rigorous requisite of Muslim countries importing Halal food products. 

Halal does not only apply to food products nowadays but also to other consumable items like beverages, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals; services as logistics, branding, banking and finance; and in lifestyle segment such as fashion and travel. 

Therefore, aside from religious considerations, Halal is now patronized for the purpose of health and wellness which covers food safety, and economic development that encompasses the Halal business industry.

Halal Quality benefit stakeholders 

"Kapag it brings wellness to the consumer, hindi lang po talaga pork (ang pinag-uusapan). Papasok na po doon yung mga pesticide residue, yung food safety aspect," the Chemist said, pointing out the holistic approach of upholding halal quality which also concerns food safety. 

Ms. Bagsit, on the other hand, added, "Economically recognized na as an important market ang Halal market," stressing out that it may be a minority but is apparently an emerging market. "Yung Halal products kasi ay hindi lang para sa mga Muslim, mayroong ibang (ginagamit ito) para sa change ng diet –  pwede ring for health reasons." 

According to the Laboratory Head, there were two modes of haram and mashboo (which means questionable) detection in products to be offered by the HVL in Los Banos which uses separate specialized machines for each process. The first one is through DNA and the second one is the detection through peptides; the latter is used as basis of detection if a product is thermally processed since heat destroys DNA. 

With the use of the most advanced technology, the HVL aims to assist the growing needs of local food manufacturers, especially the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). 

In fact, Ms. Bagsit said that they plan to recommend offering the HVL services initially for free to their trial beneficiaries which are their set-up recipients under their Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program. 

"First sem, mag-me-method validate kami, mag-pa-pa-accredit kami sa Philippine Accreditation Bureau para makapag-offer kami nung test," she explained, adding that the testing period aims to ensure that the methods to be offered by the HVL are accurate and to demonstrate the competency of the laboratory. 

In relation to the economic benefits of the HVL as a process necessary prior to actual certification by the certifying bodies, the producers of Halal certified products shall have the opportunity to penetrate the global market that shows an increasing demand for Halal products from diversified consumers both from the Muslim and non-Muslim countries. This is because an estimated US$ 2.3 Trillion global Halal industry already exists which gives way to a significant growth in Halal food and items distribution around the world. 

The future offerings of the DOST Calabarzon HVL include Porcine DNA detection by Polymerase Chain Reaction, Porcine and porcine derivatives detection by Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS), Alcohol detection by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), Heavy metals analysis by Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS) with HVG-MVU-GF, and Allergens detection using Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). 

"Kung titignan natin sa DTI, majority ng sector ng ating manufacturing ng food ay nandito sa Luzon," Ms. Bagsit answered when asked why DOST chose to house the HVL in DOST IV-A located in Los Banos, Laguna. 

She explains that the HVL was strategically positioned in Laguna because this location is very accessible to prospective clients, which are mostly the food manufacturing companies and corporations within Luzon. (GG/JG, PIA4A)


S & T Trivia

" In Spring 1999, the water-based insect buster called Household Insecticide (HI) won Gonzalo Catan Jr. the Silver Medal at the 27th International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, Switzerland. This Filipino innovation makes use of 21 useful microorganisms, among other materials, to kill flies, mosquitoes, termites, ants, roaches, as well as dog ticks, fleas and lice. "

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