Bangkok lab leads ‘halal science’ development as Thailand seeks to become industry hub

Researchers work at the Halal Science Center in Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok on Feb. 22, 2024. (AN photo)
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Updated 03 March 2024
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Bangkok lab leads ‘halal science’ development as Thailand seeks to become industry hub

  • Thailand is seeking to become a regional halal hub, increase halal exports
  • Bangkok center in talks with SFDA to establish halal science lab in Saudi Arabia

BANGKOK: For the last two decades, Dr. Winai Dahlan has helmed the development of halal research initiatives in Buddhist-majority Thailand to ensure food safety standards that conform with Islamic laws. 

The country’s start in halal science began as an answer to increasing calls by Thai Muslims for scientific testing in halal food development in the late 1990s after the discovery of beef sausage products for Muslim consumers that were tainted with pork caused an uproar. 

The demands of Muslim consumers in the country, which make up about 5 percent of Thailand’s 66 million population, along with increased awareness of halal standards, led to the establishment of a halal research center at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. 

“When the Thailand policymakers realized the significance of the science … Chulalongkorn University (and) myself at that time … established a small laboratory in the Faculty of Allied Health Science,” Dahlan, who is the center’s director, told Arab News. 

That small lab eventually became a full-scale facility, with the government granting a budget for the public university to do so following controversies related to halal food products in the region.

“In that year, 2003, Thailand finally had the first halal laboratory.” 

The center, which operates under the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, is the only one of its kind in Thailand and has been dubbed the world’s first halal science institution. 

It developed the standardization known as HAL-Q, or the Halal Assurance, Liability-Quality System, which has been adopted to integrate halal standards into food safety and is used by more than 770 factories employing more than 200,000 people across the kingdom. 

Dahlan’s team had worked on the Shariah-compliant ICT Logistics Kontrol system, or SILK, an information technology system developed for the halal supply chain, logistics and traceability management that is also compatible with HAL-Q. 

They also developed the Halal Route app, which will soon be launched in Arabic and functions as a directory and review platform for Muslim travelers to easily find mosques and halal restaurants when visiting Thailand. 

The Halal Science Center’s leading role in the field also provides an economic opportunity for Thailand, at a time when the government is seeking to boost the country’s halal exports. 

“Thailand has great potential for becoming a regional halal hub because of its abundance of raw materials to produce halal food in response to the demands of many countries worldwide,” the Thai government’s public relations department said in a statement issued on Feb. 27. 

“Thailand also has great opportunities to increase its halal exports to both Muslim and non-Muslim countries.” 

Thai exports of halal food products reached around 217 billion baht ($6 billion) in the first 11 months of 2023, growing 2.6 percent compared to the same period in the previous year, with over 15,000 halal food producers in the country, according to official data. 

Many countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, have set up strategies to tap into the thriving global halal market, which is estimated to be worth more than $7 trillion. 

But in Thailand, there is still a need to educate the private sector on halal-related matters, Dahlan said. 

“I think (this is) very important in order to boost up the total exports to Muslim countries … We still have room for expanding our product to the Middle East.” 

Dahlan has grown more optimistic with recent developments in Saudi-Thai relations, which were officially restored in 2022. 

“After that, it’s like (a) broken dam, water comes (out), big flood of Saudi tourists to Thailand … We have a very high expectation for the relationship, and also for the export,” Dahlan said. 

Since then, the center has taken part in the Thailand Mega Fair 2023 in Riyadh, during which Dahlan gave a lecture on the nation’s halal science development. He said the center is also in talks with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority about establishing a halal science laboratory in Saudi Arabia. 

“From the Thai side, especially for the Muslims in Thailand, they are so excited. We have been waiting for 32 years for the normal relationship between Thailand and Saudi Arabia.”


Nepal latest to ban Indian spice brands over safety concerns

Updated 8 sec ago
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Nepal latest to ban Indian spice brands over safety concerns

  • Hong Kong, Singapore last month banned products from Everest and MDH after tests detected presence of ethylene oxide
  • Besides its use as a pesticide, ethylene oxide is used to sterilize medical equipment and as a sterilising agent in spices

KATMANDU: Nepal has become the latest jurisdiction to ban the import and sale of two popular Indian spice brands after reports that some of their products contained a cancer-causing pesticide, officials said Friday.
Hong Kong and Singapore last month banned products from Everest and MDH — two brands popular in India and exported worldwide — after tests detected the presence of ethylene oxide, according to media reports.
Besides its use as a pesticide, ethylene oxide is used to sterilize medical equipment and as a sterilising agent in spices to prevent illnesses caused by salmonella and E. Coli bacteria.
Regular exposure to the colorless and odourless compound increases the “risk of cancers of the white blood cells,” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Matina Joshi Vaidya, chief of Nepal’s Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, told AFP that the Himalayan country had also decided to halt the sale of the spice blends.
“It is an issue of public health,” she said. “We have its banned import and sale from Thursday.”
Nepal has banned four products — three variants produced by MDH and one by Everest.
“We do not have the lab resources to run the tests in the country. The ban will be lifted when Indian authorities declare it safe,” Vaidya said.
Everest and MDH are India’s top two spice brands with a market share of 16 and 10 percent respectively in 2022, according to consumer research monitor Statista.
Both companies have put out statements denying their products pose a health hazard to consumers after the Singapore and Hong Kong import bans.
“We clarify and state unequivocally that these claims are untrue and lack any substantiating evidence,” MDH said last month on social media platform X.
India’s food regulation agency has asked for state authorities to carry out random testing of spice products, broadcaster NDTV reported.


Argentine president begins unusual visit to Spain, snubbing officials and courting the far-right

Updated 18 May 2024
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Argentine president begins unusual visit to Spain, snubbing officials and courting the far-right

  • The brash President Javier Milei has no plans to meet Spain's PM — nor any other government official
  • He will instead attend a far-right summit Sunday hosted by Sánchez’s fiercest political opponent, the Vox party

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: Even before kicking off a three-day visit to Madrid on Friday, Argentina’s libertarian President Javier Milei stirred controversy, accusing the socialist government of bringing “poverty and death” to Spain and weighing in on corruption allegations against the prime minister’s wife.

In such circumstances, a typical visiting head of state may strive to mend fences with diplomacy.
Not Milei. The brash economist has no plans to meet Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez during his three days in the Spanish capital — nor the Spanish king, nor any other government official. Instead, he’ll attend a far-right summit Sunday hosted by Sánchez’s fiercest political opponent, the Vox party.
The unorthodox visit was business as usual for Milei, a darling of the global far right who has bonded with tech billionaire Elon Musk and praised former US President Donald Trump. Earlier this year on a trip to the United States, Milei steered clear of the White House and took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, where he railed against abortion and socialism and shared a bear hug with Trump.
Milei presented his 2022 book, “The Way of the Libertarian,” in Madrid Friday at a literary event organized by La Razón, a conservative Spanish newspaper.
The book — withdrawn from circulation in Spain earlier this month because the back-flap biography erroneously said Milei had earned a doctorate — traces his meteoric rise in politics from eccentric TV personality to national lawmaker and outlines his radical free-market economic ideas.
To thunderous applause, Milei condemned socialism as “an intellectual fraud and a horror in human terms.”
“The good thing is that the spotlight is shining on us everywhere and we are making the reds (leftists) uncomfortable all over the world,” Milei said.
He took the opportunity to promote the results of his harsh austerity campaign in Argentina, celebrating a decline in monthly inflation in April though making no mention of the Buenos Aires subway fares that more than tripled overnight.
Repeating a campaign pledge to eliminate Argentina’s central bank — without giving further details — Milei promised to make Argentina “the country with the most economic freedom in the world.”
At the event Milei gave a huge hug to his ideological ally Santiago Abascal, the leader of the hard-right Vox party and the only politician with whom Milei has actual plans to meet in Madrid.
The Vox summit Sunday seeks to bring together far-right figures from across Europe in a bid to rally the party’s base ahead of European parliamentary elections in June. Milei described his attendance a “moral imperative.” He also has plans to meet Spanish business executives Saturday.
Tensions between Milei and Sánchez have simmered since the moment the Spanish prime minister declined to congratulate the libertarian economist on his shock election victory last November.
But hostility exploded earlier this month when one of Sánchez’s ministers suggested Milei had taken narcotics. The Argentine presidency responded with an unusually harsh official statement accusing Sánchez’s government of “endangering the middle class with its socialist policies that bring nothing but poverty and death.”
The lengthy government statement also accused Sánchez of having “more important problems to deal with, such as the corruption accusations against his wife.”
The allegations of influence peddling and corruption brought by a right-wing group against Sánchez’s wife, Begoña Gómez, had prompted Sánchez, one of Europe’s longest serving Socialist leaders, to consider stepping down.
 


Senegal’s new president welcomes challenge to help reconcile ECOWAS with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger

Updated 18 May 2024
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Senegal’s new president welcomes challenge to help reconcile ECOWAS with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger

  • Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo sought Bassirou Diomaye Faye's help during their meeting in Accra on Friday
  • Faye said that he hoped to convince the countries to “come back and share our common democratic values and what we stand for”

ACCRA: Ghana’s president Friday urged his visiting Senegalese counterpart to use his goodwill within the Economic Community of West African States to help resolve disputes with Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.

President Bassirou Diomaye Faye arrived in the capital Accra early in the morning after visiting Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso in January 2024 announced they were leaving ECOWAS after they were suspended by the group over military coups in all three nations.
“We are lucky to have a new leader in place because I think he is also going to help us to try and resolve the big problem that we have in the ECOWAS community,” Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said after meeting Faye.
“President Faye is very committed to seeing what he and the rest of us can do to reach out and revive the dialogue.”
Speaking to reporters after bilateral talks, Akufo-Addo said Faye had demonstrated commitment to ECOWAS efforts to bring the three countries to the table for further talks and back to the bloc.
Faye, 44, won a resounding victory as an anti-establishment candidate promising major reforms to become Senegal’s youngest-ever president.
His election has been seen as an inspiration for change in contrast to some of the continent’s aging leaders who have been in power for years and to other countries now run by military governments.
He welcomed the challenge to help reconcile ECOWAS with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
ECOWAS “is going through difficult times but we are going to do all we can to consolidate the gains made in integration, in a spirit of common, fraternal solidarity,” Faye told reporters.
Unity was “primordial” in the region, he added.
Earlier in Nigeria, Faye said that alongside Nigeria, which currently chairs ECOWAS, he hoped to convince the countries to “come back and share our common democratic values and what we stand for.”
 


Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s attacker jailed for 30 years

Updated 18 May 2024
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Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s attacker jailed for 30 years

SAN FRANCISCO: A man who attacked the elderly husband of former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a hammer was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison.
David DePape was convicted last year of breaking into the couple’s San Francisco home and bludgeoning Paul Pelosi in a horrifying attack captured on police bodycam.
At the time of the October 2022 assault, Democrat Nancy Pelosi was second in line to the presidency and a regular target of outlandish far-right conspiracy theories.
Jurors in his trial last year heard how DePape — a Canadian former nudist activist who supported himself with occasional carpentry work — had initially planned to target Nancy Pelosi, planning to smash her kneecaps if she did not admit to her party’s “lies.”
On arriving at their home armed with rope, gloves and duct tape, DePape instead encountered her then-82-year-old husband, and kept asking, “Where’s Nancy?“
During what DePape told officers was a “pretty amicable” conversation with Paul Pelosi, the husband managed to call for help from law enforcement officers.
Moments later when police arrived DePape hit Pelosi with a hammer before officers rushed at him and took the weapon away.
Pelosi was knocked unconscious and had his skull fractured. He spent almost a week in a hospital, where he underwent surgery.
Nancy Pelosi was not at home the night of the attack.
Prosecutors had asked the federal court in San Francisco to sentence DePape to 40 years in prison.
In the lead up to Friday’s sentencing, Nancy Pelosi had asked the judge to impose a “very long” sentence for an attack that “has had a devastating effect on three generations of our family.”
“Even now, eighteen months after the home invasion and assault, the signs of blood and break-in are impossible to avoid.
“Our home remains a heartbreaking crime scene,” she wrote, according to court documents cited by the San Francisco Chronicle.
On Friday her office said the family was proud of Paul Pelosi “and his tremendous courage in saving his own life on the night of the attack and in testifying in this case.”
DePape had pleaded not guilty to charges that included assault on a family member of a US official, and attempted kidnapping of a US official.
While not denying the attack, his defense rested on contesting federal prosecutors’ claims that he had targeted Nancy Pelosi in her official capacity.
Instead, his lawyers argued that DePape was driven to target a number of prominent liberal figures, due to his exposure to a web of obscure conspiracy theories.
In social media posts, DePape shared QAnon theories and false claims that the last US election was stolen.
The trial heard how DePape did not intend to stop his supposed anti-corruption crusade with Pelosi, and had drawn up a list of other targets including a feminist academic whom he accused of turning US schools into “pedophile molestation factories.”
Other personalities the defendant admitted wanting to attack included California Governor Gavin Newsom, President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and actor Tom Hanks.
Jurors took less than 10 hours to reject DePape’s explanation of the attack, which took place just a few days before the US midterm elections.
The attack itself became politicized in the weeks after it occurred, with some members of the Republican Party mocking the incident and suggesting lurid and unsubstantiated explanations for why there was a man in Pelosi’s house late at night.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that DePape’s sentence should serve as a warning that attacks on political figures and their families were unacceptable.
“In a democracy, people vote, argue, and debate to achieve the policy outcome they desire,” he said.
“But the promise of democracy is that people will not employ violence to affect that outcome.
“The Justice Department will aggressively prosecute those who target public servants and their families with violence.”


Burkina loyalists rally after gunfire near presidency

Updated 18 May 2024
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Burkina loyalists rally after gunfire near presidency

  • Burkina Faso news agency AIB reported that an individual had tried to attack a guard at the palace but there were no injuries or damage
  • Junta leader Traore seized power in a coup on September 30, 2022, deposing a military regime that earlier ousted the elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso: Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Burkina Faso’s capital Friday in support of the country’s military rulers after gunfire was reported near the presidency, AFP reporters said.
Demonstrators gathered at a roundabout in central Ouagadougou, vowing to protect the rule of President Ibrahim Traore.
Earlier in the afternoon, “there were shots fired near the presidential palace,” said one demonstrator, Moussa Sawadogo.
“We do not know what is going on but we are there to stop anything from happening.”
Burkina Faso news agency AIB reported that an individual had tried to attack a guard at the palace but there were no injuries or damage.
Security forces closed off access to the area around the palace, AFP reporters saw.
The landlocked West African nation has been run by a military regime since mutinying soldiers deposed elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore in 2022.
Junta leader Traore then seized power in another coup on September 30, 2022.
He established a transitional government and legislative assembly for 21 months, a period set to expire on July 1.
National consultations on the next steps in the transition to civilian rule are scheduled for May 25 to 26.
Since 2015, Burkina’s forces have been struggling to combat jihadist insurgencies that have killed thousands of people and forced around two million from their homes — violence that the army’s leaders used to justify their coups.