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UK Hosts Halal Food Festival, As Industry Booms

posted 29 Sept 2013, 11:50 by Mpelembe   [ updated 29 Sept 2013, 11:51 ]

Fans of halal food, known as 'haloodies', congregate in London for Britain's first ever halal food festival.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (SEPTEMBER 27, 213) (REUTERS) -  London has been hosting Britain's first ever halal food festival, showcasing a wide variety of foods that have been followed from farm to fork.

More than 100 exhibitors have been taking part in the three-day event, which began on Friday (September 27) at the Excel centre.

Halal hot dogs, sushi, sausages, organic meat, burgers and non-alcoholic champagnes are just some of the products on display, all of which have been made in accordance with Islamic law.

Other exhibitors showcased hummus, pancakes, falafel and sweets made out of non-pork gelatine

The festival's founder, Imran Kauser, said he came up with the idea after struggling to find halal products at more mainstream food events.

"The idea of the festival came from a personal desire. As a Londoner I love trying so many different food festivals but I am always very conscious about the limitations placed on me because of my dietary restrictions. I really thought to myself, wouldn't it be great if there was a halal food festival where I can go around, try things from every exhibitor, I don't have to worry about what I am eating and that was the start of the idea," he said.

The halal slaughter process has seen a backlash from animal rights campaigners.

Usually an animal is stunned before slaughter, but that doesn't always happen in the halal slaughter method. Rather, the animal's throat is slit whilst a special Islamic prayer is said.

But after recent scares in the mainstream food market where beef was being substituted with horse meat, some people now opt for halal much as they might choose free range or organic meat.

London-based butcher Zahid Chawdry has been in the meat business for over twenty five years and has seen some dramatic changes.

"Well, the increase in demand, obviously there's been a great rise, obviously, in the Muslim population in this country and therefore there has been an increase in the consumption of halal produce and this is not just about meat, we're talking about other related products going into sort of like sausages, burgers," he said.

There are nearly three million Muslims in Britain, making up just under five percent of the country's population.

But it's not only Muslims who are helping boost the £420 billion industry.

"What I've seen throughout my own client base is that we see a lot of European, non-Muslims also shopping in our store and I am sure they're probably maybe shopping in other stores as well, and that's also could be an indicative to the fact that they're realising that halal meat is in fact much more sort of better in terms of its cleanliness," Chawdry added.

Some of the big supermarkets and restaurant chains in London are keen to tap into the industry's potential profits.

At the moment the big brand businesses target areas with large Muslim populations.

But the halal food festival may go some way towards pushing halal even more into the mainstream.

And with more than 20,000 foodies, or 'haloodies', expected to visit the exhibition, some of those will be the big brands sniffing out just how big halal food could become in Britain.

The exhibition's organisers say they plan to make the festival an annual event in the hope of introducing more and more people to halal produce.