Cross-contamination at London’s ‘Halal’ Michelin restaurants
A report published by IlmFeed last year sought to question the criteria used by UK Halal food bloggers and influencers in determining the Halal status of restaurants.
What made this question such an important one was that it opened up a debate which, until then, hadn’t received the attention it demanded.
In the end, what the author discovered was a failure on the part of some in factoring in the crucial condition of cross-contamination when declaring things Halal.
Essentially, this issue seeks to determine whether restaurants, who cater for both Halal and non-Halal, have put into place policies and practices ensuring that the storage, preparation and cooking of both are done in such a way as to avoid cross-contamination.
Since then, while food bloggers and influencers seem to have improved in this regard, there are others – and important ones at that with tens of thousands of social followers – who are either ignorant of this condition or have chosen to ignore it.
As an influencer though, if you know your audience, then the excuse of ignorance simply cannot be so easily made, since it ought to be obvious to anyone with basic knowledge of the subject of Halal just how important this issue is to Muslims in general.
The fact that cross-contamination is significant enough to warrant a debate should be a good reason for bloggers and influencers to address this matter directly, at least for the sake of their followers.
Knowing just how sensitive Halal food being handled in the same environment as non-Halal is to so many, we approach this subject with a great deal of care and attention, such that, while this happens to be an integral part of our own criteria in determining an establishment’s Halal status, we believe it is equally important to bring this vital information to public attention and allow them to reach their own informed decisions.
Sadly, there are some who, while having chosen to put themselves in this position of influence, appear not to carry this same weight of duty or responsibility.
Can these Michelin restaurants ensure no cross-contamination?
Following the publication of Michelin Guide’s list for 2020, this issue has again reared its ugly head, with certain influencers entirely ignoring cross-contamination as a condition while designating certain Michelin restaurants as catering for Halal.
In order to bring this subject again into sharp focus, we decided to contact these restaurants to find out more. We asked them what viable practices they had put in place to avoid indirect contact, and by extension direct, with non-Halal ingredients, e.g. separate storage; different/ properly cleaned utensils, prep area; washing of hands, etc.
Of the 20 we contacted, the following four have failed to clarify their position: Claude Bosi at Bibendum, Kai in Mayfair, Veeraswamy, and Amaya – all of which apparently cater for Halal chicken and lamb – with the representative of a fifth insisting: “I am positive that we do not serve any kind of Halal food at Helene Darroze at The Connaught restaurant.”
As for the remaining 15, then seven restaurants have been transparent and forthright in acknowledging that, when it comes to the storage, preparation and cooking of Halal dishes in their kitchen, they CANNOT guarantee that these are free from the risk of cross-contamination.
Naturally, this raises the all-important question of whether dishes served by such establishments are, in fact, Halal.
While we leave the answer to you, we consider said acknowledgement, as per our own criteria, to be sufficient evidence in not designating any such dishes or the restaurants as Halal, partially or otherwise.
But what of those establishments who, though open in declaring their catering of Halal, have failed to clarify, despite repeated requests on our part via numerous modes of communication, their stance vis-à-vis cross-contamination?
The fact that they are known for serving non-Halal meat, with places like Claude Bosi and Kai of Mayfair even serving pork, ought to raise enough doubts over their status of Halal and a good enough reason for us to inquire into this issue.
The question then is whether such restaurants warrant being labelled Halal in anyway whatsoever before having openly and honestly addressed their position on cross-contamination?
As for the remaining eight who say that they can ensure, to the best of their ability, zero risk of cross-contamination, then in our opinion that should be sufficient, based on what’s apparent while putting aside speculation, in recognising the establishment as catering for Halal. As Muslims are inclined to say thereafter: “Allahu ‘alam!”, or God knows best!