As Malaysia ups halal ante, Singapore Islamic authority relaxes cert rules

The controversy over the cake requirement in McDonald's has been slow to abate.— Reuters pic
The controversy over the cake requirement in McDonald's has been slow to abate.— Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 — The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) has clarified that customers are allowed to consume birthday cakes that are not halal-certified in the country’s halal outlets, citing a “flexible approach” towards the matter.

The explanation came after McDonald’s Singapore said it has banned non-certified cakes since 1992, but the franchise has since announced today it will revise its policy following Muis’ clarification.

In a media statement reported by Singaporean press today, Muis said halal outlets “may exercise some discretion in such cases” if three conditions can be met with outside food.

The conditions stipulates that there is no cross-contamination and the item is not brought into the kitchen, food preparation area, or storage facilities; only disposable cutlery is used; and the item must be consumed while any leftovers must immediately be bagged and disposed.

“As long as these conditions are met, Muis is of the view that the principles of halal certification are still preserved,” Muis said, as quoted by The Straits Times newspaper.

McDonald’s Singapore had notified the press of its policy, following public furore against a similar ban in the fast food chain outlets in Malaysia which was made the headlines.

“We need to adhere strictly to Muis regulations to ensure the food we serve is halal and suitable for consumption for our Muslim friends,” McDonald’s Singapore’s director of government relations and communication, Faz Hussen, told portal Channel NewsAsia yesterday.

“These include regulations on preparing our food, storing our ingredients and ensuring the food we serve is not mixed with non-halal food.”

However, Muis explained that McDonald’s Singapore had made the statement without prior consultation with the body.

“In the light of Muis’ clarification, McDonald’s Singapore will review its policy on birthday cakes,” Faz announced.

Last month, McDonald’s Malaysia confirmed that it has enforced a policy barring customers from bringing cakes without halal certification into its premises, saying the rule was a requirement by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

Jakim later praised McDonald’s for its initiative, saying the move is consistent with its certification for food premises although not a direct requirement.

However, the burger giant was reported by several local dailies to have removed the notice from some outlets in Sarawak—which has a smaller Muslim population compared to states in the peninsula—following boycott threats there.

McDonald’s Malaysia has yet to comment on the alleged reversal in select stores.

Both McDonald’s Malaysian and Singaporean franchises are held by Saudi Arabia’s Lionhorn Pte Ltd following a sale by McDonald’s Corp last month.

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