I’ve had a prepared answer for the food show visitors who want to know what sort of salt we use in the product for quite some time.
More often than not, he salt question is an opener for a diatribe on the benefits of Himalayan yak salt, Brighton mud salt or Murray a River purple salt and the perils of “ordinary” salt.
“We use sea salt from Marlborough” I tell them, the, quick as a flash I add, “but we have an unsalted version, here” (flashes a jar) “to which you can add the salt of your choice.”
A similar question, that I wasn’t prepared for, came up at a food show in Perth recently. A pleasant muddled aged woman enquires whether Pic’s was halal certified.
I told her that it wasn’t, but that it had been cleared for both halal and kosher certification but it wasn’t printed on the label. I asked if it would help her if it carried the clearance label.
“If it did”, she announced, “I wouldn’t buy it”.
“Why not?” I asked, a little alarmed, and was told that buying halal certified food supported ISIS and encouraged Muslims to maim and kill and take over the world.
I thought, for less than a moment, of offering her a halal uncertified jar, but, for the first time in my life, I thought no, I would rather this woman didn’t eat our product, mumbled something about racism and walked away.
I was particularly disturbed by he woman’s otherwise well spoken manner and mentioned it to some colleagues, many of whom had had similar experiences.
The next time it happened was a month later, at a Sydney food show. This time it came from a fellow exhibitor with whom I had enjoyed passing time when our stands were quiet.
Towards the end of a food show, many exhibitors are keen to get rid of unsold stock, slashing prices or even giving it away. I gave my neighbour a couple such jars and she peered intently at their labels. “Just checking that they’re not Halal approved” she announced cheerily. “No madam, they are not” I replied, “but if they were…?”
“I wouldn’t take them.”
I would like to have been more polite as I retrieved my jars. I should not have accused her of racism, when I meant religious bigotry. She tried to explain how payments to Halal certifies went straight to Al Qaeda, and how she had nothing against Hindus.
A few minutes later she buttonholed my nineteen year old son Louis and the two other young people who were working on our stand and told them how unspeakably rude I was and that she would be telling her friends never to buy our stuff. Louis, bless him, assured her that I would probably be very happy to hear that, and we packed up our respective stands without so much as a glance in each other’s direction.
That night I googled “Boycott Halal Australia” and found long lists of offending grocery items, damning photos of Vegemite seen in a Dubai Supermarket and anonymous web pages featuring “Stop ISIS. Boycott Halal Foods” and “Australia for Australians” hats, tea towels and bumper stickers.
Argument raged on the Boycott Halal Austral’s Facebook page, with some remarkable claims from both sides.
There was a press story about a South Australian milk company that had reluctantly withdrawn their Halal approval, and of a hoax Ban Halal Group that had, amongst other pranks, encouraged concerned citizens to bombard Penfolds Wines, with emails demanding they cease selling Halal approved wines. Penfolds issued a magnificently po-faced press release, assuring Australia’s Muslims that they would never try to trick them into drinking alcohol.
Sadly though, the writers of the satirical web site felt they had to remain anonymous, as the promoters of the “official” site clearly included fanatical
national front members and white supremacists.
Thankfully I have seen no sign of anti halal sentiment in New Zealand. I would love to certify our our products Halal Certified and publicly invite
Concerned Australians not to buy us, but I fear we would be inviting anything from product tampering to threats of violence.
So when we do get our Halal and Kosher certifications, they’ll slip quietly in to a corner of our label and our customers will self select perfectly.