The Chief Operating Officer of the Byron Bay Cookie Company has broken his silence over the anti-Halal campaign.
The Company recently found itself embroiled in a social media row when it emerged its Halal-certified products included an ANZAC biscuit.
The Boycott Halal in Australia group encourages boycotting any product carrying Halal certification, claiming the money raised is used to fund Islamic terrorist groups.
But Byron Bay Cookie Company’s, Keith Byrne, said Halal certification is common among Australian food producers and is no different to gluten-free labelling.
Halal certification not only refers to meat products but anything that includes alcohol, even down to the contents of vanilla essence, an essential ingredient in biscuit making.
“A lot of people would say “why as a cookie company you make cookies would you have Halal certification?”
“But in the food industry the Halal certification also shows that there’s no alcohol in our ingredients and so depending on the ingredient we get audited to say that there’s no alcohol use in our production and that our production site is of an acceptable level of cleanliness and hygiene,” Mr Byrne said.
The company has carried the Halal certification for 10 years and it has been an important part of its international trade, particularly for the supply of airline use.
“The Halal company that certifies us is based in Sydney, they come and they audit us and then they go away again, they don’t ‘bless’ our foods, they don’t ‘bless’ our site, there’s no religious context to it, they check our hygiene and they check that there’s no alcohol there,” Mr Byrne said.
Mr Byrne said the anti-Halal campaign that has erupted came as something of a surprise considering the company has been certified for so long.
“Over the past eight months we have been targeted as a company that does have Halal and now what’s really coming to the fore is that there are thousands of companies in Australia that have Halal certification, most companies that do export have Halal certification,” Mr Byrne said.
“We as an iconic brand have been targeted but ultimately if people look at any major producer will typically have Halal depending on the countries they supply too,” he said.
The anti-Halal campaign has been difficult for staff.
“It hasn’t been easy, we’ve had a lot of calls and emails that have been quite aggressive where we have had to ask the police to step in,” Mr Byrne said.
“But on the other side of it we’ve had a lot of positive support from people across the board whether it be people in parliament, our Mayor here in Byron has been fantastic, local people have been very supportive,” he said.
“Now people are becoming more aware of what (Halal) is and not just taking some of the information that’s being put out there to manipulate emotions,” Mr Byrne said.