Malaysian meat manufacturers, particularly those eyeing the GBP500m (US$861m) halal market in the UK, have been urged to work together to ensure that they comply with the strict food safety requirements in the UK and the European Union, the Business Times newspaper reported.

“Like the Thais, Malaysian food manufacturers must co-ordinate and acquire membership of the UK Halal Food Authority for their products to be approved and endorsed for acceptance into the UK halal market,” Ali Sher, director of education under the UK Overseas Malaysian Executive Club, told reporters at a one-day seminar on doing business with the UK.

He said Malaysia was not on the approved list of countries authorised to import meat products into the EU. Due to strict regulations, halal or non-halal products containing meat from Malaysia were not allowed to be sold in the UK even if the meat content is less than 5%.

Organised by the Malaysia External Development Corp, it was presented by Omec, a platform for both Malaysian and British professionals and entrepreneurs to network with each other. The paper pointed out that the UK is home to about 2.5m Muslims, with most of them centred in the large metropolitan areas of London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bradford.

Malaysian halal products, he said, are mostly distributed by oriental supermarkets while the local supermarkets have a small section dedicated to halal products.

He suggested Malaysian food manufacturers to negotiate and co-ordinate reciprocal agreements between the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), Selangor Religious Department (JAIS), HFA and the UK Food Standard Agency for issues such as labelling, gelatine, health and hygiene concerning Muslims and Islamic dietary laws.

Ali said the increased demand for halal products within the Muslim community and public has created important consumer opportunities for major food retailers, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, catering, gourmet, schools, universities and hospitals.