PATERSON, N.J. -- With Ramadan approaching, state officials cited five Paterson businesses -- a full third of those receiving summonses statewide -- for failing to properly disclose practices relating to the preparation, handling, and sale of food sold or served as halal.
The use of halal foods – i.e., those permitted by Islamic dietary rules – is centrally important to the celebration of the month-long Muslim religious holiday, which begins on or about Friday of this year.
The Paterson businesses:
- · Al Hilal Meat & Fish Market in Paterson
- · Al-Kumah Restaurant & Halal Meat in Paterson
- · Banglatown Supermarket in Paterson
- · Paradise Halal Meat (two stores) in Paterson
- · Star Halal Meat in Paterson
Inspections from the Halal Enforcement Unit within the state Office of Consumer Protection visited 110 establishments statewide to ensure compliance with the state laws designed to protect the halal-buying public, Attorney General Christopher Porrino said.
“Consumers shopping for halal foods, especially during Ramadan, must be able to trust that the foods they buy meet their personal standards and interpretation of Islamic dietary guidelines,” Porino said.
Because “halal” is a religious designation with standards that differ among Muslim communities, state authorities don't attempt to define halal by statute or regulation.
However, Porrino noted, the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act requires businesses to live up to the promises and representations they make when selling merchandise, including food, to the public.
Among the state laws pertaining to the sale of halal food, dealers must prominently display disclosure statements providing important information about the foods they prepare and market as halal.
That includes whether it contains pork products or alcohol and whether it was prepared using the same or separate cutting boards, refrigerators, etc. used for non-halal foods. These and other practices are permitted under state law as long as the business accurately provides the information in a disclosure statement readily visible to consumers.
The business must also provide the same information to the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Each notice of violation carries a $500 fine.
New Jersey 17 years ago became one of the first states to specifically protect the halal-buying public by requiring food sellers to disclose important information to the public.
An exception applies to businesses that sell halal foods in sealed packages from the original producers.
Sellers of halal foods may choose to be supervised and certified by an independent halal certification agency. All halal certification agencies that supervise food dealers in New Jersey must provide the DCA with an annually updated list of the names, addresses, and types of establishments they supervise.
MORE INFO: (973) 792-421 7. Or: www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/halal .
Investigators Murat Botas, Jennifer Micco, Jared O’Cone, and Brian Penn of the DCA's Office of Consumer Protection, conducted the investigations.
Deputy Attorney General Jesse Sierant from the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law is handling the prosecutions.