Fast Food and Religion
The UK has certainly become more multi cultural in recent decades, with scores of restaurants and shops springing up to cater for just about every culture and regional cuisine. Supporters of this sea change in eating out are pleased to be able to choose from a more enlightened range of delicacies, and most of us will quite happily visit takeaways and restaurants to try different types of menu.
The way that some foods are prepared, in line with tradition, religion and culture, can sometimes cause controversy though. Recently, however, the spotlight has been on the way some UK favourites have been prepared, rather than the spices and flavours used to enhance them, and in particular it’s been highlighted that some fast food emporiums have been using Islamic-approved halal meat in everyday menus. Some have been up-front and provided kosher and halal-friendly menus designed to appeal to their particular demographic, but others have been sneaking halal products into their food without telling consumers, and this has attracted much criticism.
What is Halal Meat?Halal meat is meat which has been prepared in accordance with traditional Islamic laws. The animal’s throat is cut, while the butcher recites Islamic verse. In the UK, however, it’s illegal to kill a cow or sheep or chicken for meat without numbing it first. Because halal is a religious practice, it’s exempt from these animal welfare laws. Some halal butchers do use some degree of stunning – but the Kosher version of the practice, favoured by some of the Jewish community, usually does not.
Who Has Been Using Halal Meat?In September 2010 an investigation carried out by the Mail on Sunday showed that some of the UK’s biggest supermarkets were selling unmarked Islamic halal meat. The supermarkets involved were Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Somerfield, the Co-op, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer – but fast food chains were also using the meat without telling customers too.
Domino’s Pizza, KFC, Pizza Hut, Nando’s and Subway were all found to be using some halal meat without making fast food consumers aware of it. McDonald’s has now admitted to secretly selling halal meat in some items although it had previously denied this. It has now admitted that halal products were used in some Chicken McNuggets and McChicken Sandwiches.
Halal Fast Food MenusIn some fast food emporiums, they tried to take the halal meat issue even further by actually introducing a completely halal-only menu in some stores. The move by KFC, for example, was initiated as part of a trial where stores sold chicken products which had been approved by the Halal Food Authority. KFC said at the time that this move was simply made to cater for a broader range of customers, and was a result of an increased demand for this type of product. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as the halal menus didn’t prove to be a success and were scrapped in June 2010. Customers complained because they were no longer able to buy their favourite bacon-topped treats, and sales were reported as being ‘disappointing.’ KFC hasn’t completely dropped its halal experiment, and although many of the restaurants have now reverted to their original menu, there are still 96 branches offering the meat.
Domino's Pizza launched their own version of the halal menu at one of their Birmingham stores in February 2010, and removed all pork from its pizzas in favour of halal-only meat at the Hall Green, Birmingham store. Poor sales forced them into a U-turn back to their original menu in summer 2010.
The pizza chain has also reverted to conventional menus two more branches where halal-only menus were provided for a trial period in Bradford and Blackburn.