Norway: First halal cheese in Scandinavia


Norway's first halal cheese is now being made in Ørsta.

Dairy manager Bente Reklev looks out her office window in the dairy in Ørsta. The guests she's waiting for have landed at the Hovden airport a few kilometers to the south and are now on their way.

The group consists of company head Per-Henrik Finnson of Tine, Mohamed Elmie of Gilde's (meat company) daughter comapny Al FAthi and the imams Zulqarnain Sakandar and his student from the Islamic Council.

they have come to Ørsta to certify one of the few cheeses Reklev and the dairy haven't gotten a diploma for yet: Norbo cheese.

In the area at the foot of the Sunnmøre mountains they will prepare halal cheese for Muslims in Norway.

The dairy head must stifle a little laugh when she continued to tell of the day they finally could being: They had taken position to meet them, since as dairy head she wanted to greet her guests. when her turn came to greet the imams she stuck her hand out, where it was left hanging.

It became quiet. From below you could hear the voice of the 50 employees who work in cheese production in the little village.

When they eventually pressed their hands against their thighs with unambiguous motions, bowed and smiled, she remembered that imams don't shake hands with women, she laughs.

After a detailed review of the production facility, and ensuring that the cheese was free of pork, wrongly slaughtered calf and alcohol, the little dairy in Ørsta is now the first in Scandinavia to produce halal approved

Norbo cheese was recently give the officiel Tayyibat halal certificate. This means that all packages of cheese are marked with an internataional label of certification, that is recongized by Muslims.

Hege Holter Brekke, concern manager in Tine, says that the certification means Muslim, vegeterians and Jews can now have a chees that is guarentted to confrom wiht the convictions and life view of these groups.

It also means Tine will get a lead in a steadily developing market.

According to data from The Halal Journal, large American chains such as Burger King, Taco Bell and KFC had increased revenues by 20% after they were halal certified. Norwegian food producers want to join in on that.

Trader Arne Paulson of Rema 1000 supermarket at Furuset in Oslo say that many Muslim are uncertain as to which foods they can choose when there's no stamp that guarantees that the product is halal certified. By halal certifying Norbo, they expect a meaningful increase in sales, that today is only exceeded by Norvegia (cheese brand).

Bente Reklev says that in the past they used rennet from pig stomachs. Rennet is a necessary ingredient for making cheese from milk, and is the enzyme that gets milk to coagulate. Today they use rennet from calf stomachs. Muslim's uncertainly is related to whether the animal was slaughtered properly, or whether the animal had contact with an illegal animal.

Reklev explains that therefore the facility must be thoroughly cleaned, pipes must be washed and the tubs must be scrubbed, in addition to using rennet from fungus and not from calves or pigs.

Lars Egil Foldal adds that it's been a long time since they used pig rennet, probably going back to the 50s and 60s. He's been working in the dairy in Ørsta for 43 years.

Aside from the rennet, there's no difference in the way they produce halal cheese or Norvegia. They don't need to roll out prayer rugs, to say it like that, he smiles.

Bente tells of a dairy that wants to change. And everybody is very careful to observe the requirements so that the cheese will be approved as halal.

Bente says she admits there are rules here and there that she has problems understanding. It's not a practical issue, a nutritional difference, but a purely religious commandment. But she thinks it's a consideration that it doesn't cost much and is just a little adjustment that they have made at the dairy without any problems.

Lars Egil agrees and says he's happy his new countrymen now have a produt they can be completely certain of.

He says that when the imams were there, they had spoken of malnutrition among Muslims. They said that many Muslims are afraid of buying in shops, when they don't know for certain what the different products contain. They quite simply don't get what they need.

There were particularly interested in brunost (whey cheese) and told him that many people they knew took back brunost back to Pakistan when they went on vacation. They apparently thought that it was safe, but apparently that isn't so. Maybe they should start producing halal brunost as well.

Camilla Gangsøy adds in that they shouldn't do that - they haven't given halal cheese any other name. They still call it Norbo, she says as she moves on of the large machines in the dairy.

She explains the functions of one machine after another, and proudly shows everything from the view to the fjords outside to the ten kilo cheese blocks, floating in salt water before they are packaged and sent on.

she has worked at the dairy for three years, and is nervous as to what will happen with the cheese after it's halal certified. She thinks customers can be strange and the gods know how they'll react. But it's a unfortunate that halal certification means that people think the cheese is only for Muslims, since it's really one of their best cheeses.

At the same time, she's proud that the dairy is the first to have its hard cheeses certified halal. Gangsøy thinks the adaptations that the little dairy in Ørsta had to do, will pay in the long run.

the rules are strict for products that want to have imam Zulquarnain Sakander's and Tayyibat Halal Certification Organizations' official certification.

Both the cheese and the packaging must be free of forbidden substances, and in addition the cheese must also be transported and stored separated from other cheese types.

Source: NRK, Dagbladet (Norwegian)


See also: UK: Cheese company enters halal market

2 comments:

ankur said...

Is this some food stuff?I have heard for first time about this halal cheese.


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