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Local restaurants cited for halal violations

The state attorney general has cited 15 businesses for failing to disclose practices relating to food served as halal as the holy month of Ramadan approaches.

N.J. Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced on May 22 that the Division of Consumer Affairs has issued Notices of Violation (“NOVs”) for allegedly failing to properly disclose practices relating to the preparation, handling and sale of food sold or served as halal, as required by the state’s Halal Food Consumer Protection Act (“HFCPA”) and the Halal Food Regulations, according to a statement posted on the attorney general’s website.

Of the 110 establishments inspected, the Middlesex County establishments allegedly in violation include Red Chutney in Iselin, Shalimar Grill & Restaurant in Iselin, Sahara Restaurant Bakery in New Brunswick, Mirichi Indian Homestyle Cuisine in North Brunswick and Café Colore Italiano in the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick.

The use of halal foods – i.e., those permitted by Islamic dietary rules – is centrally important to Muslim’s celebrating the religious holiday of Ramadan, which begins on or about May 26 this year. In preparation of the month-long religious observation, inspections from the Halal Enforcement Unit within the Division’s Office of Consumer Protection visited 110 establishments from Passaic to Camden counties to ensure compliance with the state laws designed to protect the halal-buying public.

“Consumers shopping for halal foods, especially during Ramadan, must be able to trust that the foods they buy meet their personal standards and interpretation of Islamic dietary guidelines,” Porrino said. “By inspecting halal food establishments in the weeks before this important Muslim holiday, we are reminding vendors of their legal obligation to fully disclose the information shoppers need to buy with confidence.”

Because “halal” is a religious designation with standards that differ between Muslim communities, the State of New Jersey does not attempt to define halal by statute or regulation. But New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act requires businesses to live up to the promises and representations they make when selling merchandise, including food, to the public, according to the statement.

Among the state laws pertaining to the sale of halal food, dealers must prominently display disclosure statements providing important information about the foods they prepare and market as halal, such as whether it contains pork products or alcohol, and whether it was prepared using the same or separate cutting boards, refrigerators, etc. used for non-halal foods, according to the statement. These and other practices are permitted under state law, as long as the business accurately provides the information in a disclosure statement readily visible to consumers. The business must also provide the same information to the Division of Consumer Affairs.

“Our laws help ensure a fair and honest marketplace in the sale of halal foods and these disclosure statements are essential to that goal,” said Steve Lee, director of the Division of Consumers Affairs. “Not only do the signs establish the transparency shoppers are entitled to, but also inspectors use the information to hold halal food dealers accountable for living up to the claims they’re making.”

Each NOV carries a $500 civil penalty.

Consumers, businesses, religious organizations or halal certifying agencies seeking additional information about the division’s halal food enforcement should call 973-792-4217.

Consumers and establishments that sell halal foods can visit the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Halal Enforcement website, www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/halal, for additional information i

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