‘This is a betrayal of consumer trust.’: Muslim Student Association concerned with mislabeled halal meat

Consumer confidence shaken at U of R restaurant over mislabelling of halal chicken
WATCH ABOVE: The Muslim Student Association at the University of Regina is raising consumer confidence concerns over food-service provider Chartwells mislabeling chicken as halal. David Baxter reports.

Some Muslim students at the University of Regina had suspicions that meat labelled as halal, was not in fact halal.

They filmed an exchange on February 15 asking an employee at Global Village if chicken labelled as halal being served at the buffet was the real deal.

The employee said it was not.

The students then brought their concern to Muslim Student Association (MSA) president Muhammad Rehman.

“This is a betrayal of consumer trust,” Rehman said.

The MSA then sent a letter expressing concern to U of R administration and food services contractor Chartwells, who run Global Village and other on-campus dining establishments.

Global Village offers halal options most days for lunch and dinner. Rehman says it is the primary on-campus halal option.
“Essentially in the religion itself, halal is something that is permissible to eat. When it comes to meat it has to be slaughtered in a specific way with God’s name being said over it. It’s very similar to kosher in that sense,” he explained.

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Global Village’s menu on February 15, 2018. The Lemon Chicken Pita was mistakenly labeled halal.
Global Village’s menu on February 15, 2018. The Lemon Chicken Pita was mistakenly labeled halal. Muhammad Rehman/Supplied.

Rehman says a similar incident took place in November. On February 15, a couple of employees were unaware if the chicken was halal. Now he says bigger issues of consumer confidence are at play.

“[Say] I go there and buy a vegetarian meal and it’s labelled as vegetarian, but when I eat it there’s meat in there. It’s obviously not harming to the person, but say for example you buy a Sony TV and when you open it up it’s a Samsung TV. You want what you’ve paid for,” he said.

On Tuesday, the halal lunch option at Global Village was chicken hot dogs. An empty hot dog package from Zabiha Halal was taped to the buffet line, a sign Chartwells, and their parent company Compass Group, is trying to restore consumer confidence.

“We’re taking this issue very, very seriously,” Compass Group Canada communications director Stephanie Baxter said.

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“We are currently looking into how it happened. We’re identifying ways to ensure this never happens again. We’re also working with the university and look forward to working with the student association.”

Baxter says that Chartwells staff at the U of R have been notified of the error. Halal signage was taken down Thursday.
“We sincerely regret this error, and off apologies to all students and staff affected by this,” Baxter said.

Rehman raised concern that these or similar issues may be taking place in other places Chartwells/Compass is contracted to provide food. The company serves millions of meals across Canada annually. Baxter said Chartwells is will be reviewing and reinforcing policies around how food is served.

The University of Regina deferred comment to Compass, but in a statement said they take the issue very seriously and are committed to a diverse and welcoming campus.