By Quah Shun Ying
November 10, 2014
I was winding up a report on halal testing market, when I came across with a recent news update about a new halal testing product, which was introduced into the market, last month.
Simply named as “Halal Test” (or yet to be branded), and developed by France-based Capital Biotech, the test is claimed to be 99 percent accurate in detecting the presence of alcohol and porcine DNA. Moreover, it is just as easy as a pregnancy test!
A concerned Muslim consumer can simply decide if the food meets his requirements by dipping a test strip in a bottle of warm water mixed with a food sample. One line indicates no trace of pork while two lines means pork is present.
What attracted me most is the concept of this product. The company brilliantly addressed a huge market need with this simple, affordable, fast, and accurate product, which can be used by any Muslim consumer, with absolutely no training.
Moreover, two key components will be tested simultaneously! This is the only test in the market that can test both alcohol and porcine DNA in a single test strip!
No wonder the targeted consumers are excited! Capital Biotech received pre-orders for 10,000 testing kits within 24 hours after the product launch.
However, the company warns that no test can determine if a product is 100% halal, since halal certification includes many other components, including the slaughtering methods.
Of course, halal certification is an extremely involved process, the depth and complexity of which I realized while developing our recent report on halal testing . The regulatory landscape for halal testing is still evolving with countries such as Malaysia leading the efforts.
Currently, several halal testing products are available in the market, which are being used by food manufacturers and regulatory agencies in charge of halal certification. PCR based methods are becoming popular, as they can offer high sensitivity and specificity. However, those tests need expertise and are definitely not suitable for field tests by untrained consumers.
While I do not doubt the popularity this test would achieve, at least until other me-too products crowd the market, I am not sure if regulators or food manufacturers will be satisfied with it. I think PCR-based tests or other new tests under development by various groups in Malaysia based on various nanotech and biotech tools still have relevance – particularly after the recent incidence of the presence of porcine DNA in Cadbury chocolates in Malaysia.
The regulators have the responsibility to prove that a product is 100% halal before offering halal certification and a continued responsibility of ensuring its authenticity through frequent inspection and other monitoring methods. A false positive may turn out to be a disaster for a company in this case.