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food / travel

No Longer Niche, Mosque-Sanctioned ‘Halal’ Food Finds Mass Market

French retailers and food manufacturers are realizing there’s money to be made by embracing halal, food produced according to Islamic law. Though sales tend to spike during Ramadan, halal is very much a year-round market.

Halal food in a French supermarket (Naïma and Guisane)
Halal food in a French supermarket (Naïma and Guisane)

Worldcrunch NEWS BITES

With the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan underway, the French food industry is paying special attention to the growing market of products known as "halal," a designation for food produced according to the rules of Islamic law.

According to a survey conducted by the French public opinion firm Ifop, 71% of France's estimated 5 million Muslims had intentions to fast from sunrise to sunset during the 29 days of this year's Ramadan. After sunset, Muslims often have big family gatherings that translate into a rise in overall food consumption.

Halal retailers earn about one third of their annual revenue during the month of Ramadan. Overall, the quickly expanding industry pulls in an estimated 5 billion euros worldwide, according to Solis, an ethnic studies consultancy firm.

In France, supermarkets sold roughly 130 million worth of halal products last year. That number is expected to reach 140 million euros in 2011, according to the consultancy firm Nielsen.

Halal products only began appearing in French supermarkets a few years ago. Specialized brands like Isla Délice and Reghalal were later joined by large French food industry players like Fleury Michon and Panzani. The supermarket chain Casino launched its own range of halal products under the umbrella brand Wassila. And Carrefour, France's top food retailer, sells approximately 50 of its own halal products as well.

"Halal isn't a niche anymore," says one Carrefour spokesperson. "It carries more weight than organic food."

Carrefour's halal foods have been approved by the Grande Mosquée de Paris (the Great Mosque of Paris). But for many consumers, questions remain about halal certification. Concerns were heighted recently by a documentary aired by the television network Canal + , which described "some practices that could be described as fraudulent." A group of eight local Muslim politicians responded this week by asking for a parliamentary investigation into halal certification practices.

Read the full article in French by Philippe Bertrand and Isabelle Tissot

Photo - Naïma Benallal and Guisane Humeau

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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