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The Halal Science Center, Chulalongkorn University: A World Leader in Halal Science and Standards

The Halal Science Center, Chulalongkorn University: A World Leader in Halal Science and Standards

BANGKOK, Sept. 8, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Chulalongkorn Universitys Halal Science Center links Thai kitchens to Muslim kitchens all over the world. Complete with its innovations and Halal standards of service to analyze and verify food products scientifically, the Center also complies with the sanctity required in Islamic law for the assurance of consumers both within and outside of Thailand.  

It was during the period between 1994-1995 that there was great concern among Muslims in Thailand about the contamination of haram substances (forbidden under Islamic law) in halal food products (approved by Islamic principles).  The Sheikhul Islam Office which was responsible for overseeing halal verification requested that scientists from the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University use their laboratories to examine the safety of halal food products for the safety of Muslim consumers. Subsequently, in 1997, laboratory tests determined that beef sausage products for Muslim consumers were tainted with pork causing a big uproar.    

Since then, there has been an increased awareness of the safety of halal food products with Muslim consumers increasingly calling for scientific testing.  This led to a cabinet resolution on August 13, 2003, to support the establishment of the Central Laboratory and Scientific Information for Halal Food Development at the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University.  The Chulalongkorn University Council at its meeting held on December 27, 2003, agreed that the Central Laboratory be upgraded to the status of the Halal Science Center of Chulalongkorn University.  This has led to the acceptance and assurance of the quality of Thai halal products in the Muslim world and has had a positive impact on the Thai economy under the “Thai Kitchen of the World” strategy serving a Muslim population of as many as two billion people.     

The Chula Halal Science Center is recognized internationally and has upgraded products with Halal standardization and examinations to determine halalness.  It is the only institution in Thailand that focuses on scientific and technological research and has developed its innovation followingIslamic principles to protect Muslim and nonMuslim consumers as well as to promote scholarship that is accepted internationally. The Center has worked steadfastly on these tasks for over 20 years.” Associate Professor Dr. Winai Dahlan, the Centers director elaborated on the Centers mission. 

For this devotion and determination in developing halal Science since 2010 Associate Professor Dr. Winai has been selected as one of “The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims” for 13 consecutive years compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. 

The Halal market: an economic opportunity for Thailand

It was in 2001 when Thailand adopted the policy of becoming the Kitchen of the World whereas in 2004 Chula’s Halal Science Center was established.  Since then, it has played an important role in assuring Muslim consumers all over the world of their food safety.  

“Despite the limitation that Thailand isn’t a Muslim country, Muslims all over the world are confident that if the Halal food item is from Thailand, it has gone through stringent measures that meet both scientific and religious standards.” Associate Professor Dr. Winai also went on to disclose the numbers for its economic value “the halal market is enormous since it covers one-fourth of the world’s population or about two billion people.  As a country that exports food and agricultural products worth 24 percent of its GDP, Thailand pays much attention to the world halal economy since its total worth is higher than 4.8 trillion USD per year with 1.3 trillion USD alone for food products.”   

Realizing its tremendously high market value, the cabinet in 2005, resolved to push forth Thailand’s strategy to the level of Thailand Diamond Halal to ensure that the country’s products and services be more widely accepted.  

Full HALQ standards and services

Associate Professor Dr. Winai explained that “Halal refers to items that Muslims can consume safely both physically and spiritually.  As such, the item must be free of any haram substances i.e., swine, dogs, carnivorous animals, poisonous animals, reptiles, etc.  Animals that can be eaten must also be slaughtered by way of Islamic law and must be healthy, not diseased, and not have suffered before their slaughter.  A Muslim has to perform the slaughter in the appropriate ritual manner and use the correct utensils as prescribed.  The complicated composition of raw materials and production process make Muslims particularly interested in halal safety standards. 

Generally speaking, standards are about principles stipulated in documents whereas putting these standards into practice is known as standardization.  There are international stipulations of basic standards like SOP, SSOP, GMP, and HACCP that Chula’s Halal Science Center has developed a method of integrating into the system for example the Halal-GMP/HACCP which later became HAL-Q (Halal Assurance, Liability–Quality System) and was awarded the Best Innovation in Halal Industry from the Prime Minister of Malaysia in 2006. 

HALQ is a full-scale management system created to certify and take responsibility for the halal features as well as to integrate halal standards into food safety so that the halal food production conforms with Islamic laws and is clean and safe by international standards.” 

According to Associate Professor Dr. Winai, there are now over 770 factories around the country that have become part of the HAL-Q system involving a labor force of more than 200,000.   

Aside from HAL-Q, the Center has also developed SILK (Shariahcompliant ICT Logistics Kontrol system) which received the award for premium innovation at the World Halal Research Summit held in Malaysia in 2012.  “SILK is an information technology system developed to serve in the halal supply chain, logistics, and traceability management for the first time in the world. The system is programmed to work hand in hand with HAL-Q to build competitive advantages for the industry installed with it.  SILK would later be improved and became the system known as SPHERE (System Protocol for Halal Electronic Resource Exchange) bringing about the exchange of information and resources for all those involved in the halal system from the industrial, agricultural, and government sectors to Islamic institutions, universities, and consumers.

Creating expertise in developing halal science  

Adhering to the principle of “Religious confirmation and Scientific support” Chula’s Halal Science Center aims at developing two groups of individuals – religious academics and scientists both of whom share an understanding of the two disciplines.  

“We develop religious academics and instill in them an understanding of scientific matters by training in the industrial halal science.  They undergo training in halal science forensic science laboratories alongside our scientists.”     

“At the same time, we also create scientists who already have a basic understanding of halal science to understand Islamic matters, and in particular the ability to differentiate what is considered halal and harom,” said Associate Professor Dr. Winai.

In the endeavor to develop qualified personnel knowledgeable in both religious and scientific matters, Chula’s Halal Science Center has joined hands with the Halal Standard Institute of Thailand to develop systems and training courses for various groups of people and organizations such as consumers, entrepreneurs, halal inspectors, scientists along with related government agencies.  They have produced many groups of experts, namely experts for providing halal services, halal products, halal logistics, halal finances, halal tourism, the halal medical profession, etc.

Associate Professor Dr. Winai mentioned some of the matters that need to be taken into consideration when designing a training course such as “the scientific system, the process, the techniques and the methods in determining contaminations, as well as the qualities one should be looking for when recruiting the personnel, and decision-makers to work in these assignments, etc.  All these need to be considered holistically.”

Thai halal science in the international arena 

Not only has the Chula Halal Science Center received national recognition, but it has also earned acceptance around the world and since 2017 the center has been a member and working group of the Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries – SMIIC along with the Central Islamic Council of Thailand which sends a representative from Thailand to attend the SMIIC conference each year.  The center also provides linkage for the Muslim world at both the global and regional levels by hosting academic conferences and the Thailand Halal Assembly for halal products which are held annually. 

Halal Blockchain for rapid testing

Participation in the international arena in the Muslim world has led the Halal Science Center to extend its collaboration with strong halal networks around the world. The Halal Blockchain technology which is known to be the fourth Industrial Revolution has been created complete with all the information needed from the source of the products to the destination of where they are sold to the consumers.    

“Because the Blockchain’s database will be shared in all nodes connected to the digital halal supply chain, it is easy to check the data simply by scanning the QR code found on the product.  In the Blockchain, you can simply check and identify the group in the system.  The technology can prevent an agency in the system from fraudulent manipulation of the data.   The system can also rank the logistics of service providers, sales distributors, and other participants in the halal supply chain based on the efficiency of the service they provide.”   At a cabinet meeting on September 10, 2019, a resolution was therefore passed assigning Chula’s Halal Science Center, the Central Islamic Council of Thailand, and the Halal Standard Institute of Thailand to develop this Halal Blockchain.

Outstanding innovations from the Halal Science Center

For nearly two decades, the center has actively carried out its work in the research and development of halal standards systems, and halal scientific innovations, many of which the center is proud to acknowledge for example the Halal-GMP/HACCP which won the award for excellent innovation in industry at the World Halal Forum in Malaysia in 2006, the HAL-Q recognized for outstanding innovation in the government management sector in 2013, and most recently the H-Number for outstanding innovation in the government management sector in 2020.  

HNumber is a database for decrypting halal chemicals prepared for the first time in the world to replace the E-Number or INS Number codes being used all over the world”  Associate Professor Dr. Winai invited producers to make use of this database.  

“The Halal Science Center has inspected and decrypted more than a thousand substance codes and used forensic science analysis to test more than 1.3 thousand substances and products.  We start with the source of the substance and the production process to sort out contaminated chemical particles (Najis) from the clean substances until we get the H-Number database that helps facilitate the process and reduce the cost for industrial factories and producers as they do not need to repeat the sorting process before the actual production under halal principles.

The center also features other of its innovations like clay soap for cleansing under Islamic law, skin care with clay substances like Kaolinite and Bentonite and Black Cumin Seed Oil, a 2D-barcode tracking system for halal product delivery trucks (that won an outstanding award at the World Halal Research expo in Malaysia), cold pressed microcapsules from Black Cumin Seed Oil that provide antioxidants, and a simple strip test kit to detect forbidden animal meat using the multiplex PCR  technique along with DNA strip (nucleic acid lateral flow). “The test takes about 1.30 hours (normally the lab test takes 1 day) and can detect as many as 5 forbidden animals at the same time i.e. pigs, monkeys, field mice, cats, and dogs.  It helps boost confidence, reduce cost, and saves time.”  

Tests with Chulas Halal Science Center

Consumers or importers of food and other items who wish to be assured that their items meet the halal standards may contact the Halal Science Center for Testing services at forensic science laboratories that are ISO/IEC 17025:2017 certified. The tests can determine the contamination of gelatin, glycerol, polar compounds, fat content, level of ethyl alcohol, and contamination of swine DNA and swine collagen from forensic science ISO 9100:2008 certified laboratories. 

Those wishing to submit specimens for testing can contact the Halal Science Center, Chulalongkorn University, Chulalongkorn Research Building 11th13th floor, Phayathai Road, Wang Mai, Pathumwan District, Bangkok or telephone +6622181054 email info.hsc.cu@gmail.com.

For the full release and more images, please visit: https://www.chula.ac.th/en/highlight/84218/ 

About Chulalongkorn University

Chulalongkorn University sets the standard as a university of innovations for society and is listed in the World’s Top 100 Universities for Academic Reputation, in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2021.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Miss Thanita Wangvanichapan at (+66) 2218 3280 or email thanita.w@chula.ac.th