Disjointed global compliance systems. Enhanced international trade regulations and import/export tariffs have made it easier to source ingredients from around the world. While the commercial side is benefitting from this, communication and compliance are two other major areas of improvement. Food brands that engage in major export activities need to be mindful about their customers overseas and ensure the language is translated, if needed, with each ingredient specified, where possible. Unfortunately, food labeling requirements of one country may not necessarily match that of another. In addition, more efforts are usually made to meet the minimum export compliance requirement versus maximizing communicating information pertaining to the product to the end user.
Religious food processing standards are more rigorous. Both halal and kosher slaughtering processes require time, manual labor, and more operational space to effectively and accurately carry out the religious requirements. The standards set in place are based on ancient, traditional religious texts that emphasize on caring for the animal prior to slaughtering it and treating the carcass with respect during and after the slaughter. These labor-intensive processes are hard to sustain nationwide and are more expensive to maintain.
Food security gets negatively impacted. When ingredient and/or nutrition labeling requirements are not met by the point of export, the point of import must temporarily hold the product before choosing to dispose of it or return it to the supplier. With costs involved, supply chain regulations, and customs requirements to consider, most countries choose to dispose of food products that do not match the local food labeling requirements. This adds to the problem of food wastage and negatively impacts food security.
Opportunities for Improvement
Analyzing quality data surrounding dining and food purchasing patterns of the current demographic will help food brands gauge what their action items are to gain a competitive edge. Though labeling every ingredient appears to be the obvious solution, there are certain limitations as complex compounds may be a derivative from two or more sources.
Religious-based food product certification and accreditation bodies could introduce economical certification programs to support small-scale food businesses that usually are founded by people who have identified a specific need of an ethnic community.
Regulatory authorities need to make an intentional decision to include the needs of other ethnic groups, especially if their population size is significant. For example, gelatin can be obtained from meat, poultry, and pork products and is often used in food, cosmetic, and personal care products. Forward-thinking food brands are voluntarily disclosing ingredients such a pork- or beef-derived gelatin. One might make the argument that this disclosure may negatively impact sales. The other perspective that often gets missed is consumers can recognize brands that are transparent and therefore feel safe trusting them.