Christian Group Goes to Court over the Religious Certifying of Food Products

Cape Times (South Africa), April 18, 2012 | Go to article overview

Christian Group Goes to Court over the Religious Certifying of Food Products


PRETORIA: A Christian voluntary organisation is taking the government to court over its new regulations allowing for a wide range of food packaging to be religiously certified and to carry religious signs, such as the halaal certification mark, without regulating the labelling.

It is claimed that these regulations exclude certain faiths, such as the Christian one, and are unconstitutional.

The National Coalition of Christian Groups and Individuals for Practical Equality and Protection of Constitutional Rights is objecting to religious labelling, such as the halaal certification mark, which signifies that the food can be eaten by Muslims.

This sign appears on a wide range of products, such as meat, drinks, chips, various sweets and biscuits.

The group said it represented various Christian organisations and people in SA, on whose behalf it is launching the court action.

It will ask the Pretoria High Court for a variety of orders, including to declare that the religious certifying of the food, which excludes the Christian faith, is unconstitutional.

The coalition will ask that the ministers of health and trade and industry be forced to introduce measures which will ensure that when these products carry religious signs on their packaging, similar food products without these signs will also be made available to the consumer.

This, however, excludes where the processed food products are exclusive to a particular religious group and originate from their faiths (such as the slaughtering prescriptions in the case of Muslims), where it would, for example, carry the halaal mark.

The coalition said in papers filed in court that Christians did not have any religious signs for placement on foodstuffs and many of the applicant's members did not favour consumables with religious signs.

The organisation also fears that the consumer will have to foot the bill for these additional markings on packaging. They will ask the court to force the government to introduce measures ensuring that the costs associated with these signs are not directly or indirectly passed on to consumers of the other religious groups who are excluded on the labelling.

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