The continent also has many agencies that certify compliance with dietary requirements.

Halal food is not only a way of life for many of the 50 million Muslims who live in Europe, but is popular also among non-Muslim people because they appreciate its health benefits. Europe hosts agencies that certify compliance with dietary requirements. In fact the market is growing together with the Muslim population and their needs.

The most important Halal food importers are the UAE, Malaysia and Indonesia, while France and UK are the biggest consumers in Europe, where the request for Halal certification is growing very fast.

Certification bodies in Europe are about 60; they estimate the value of Halal food in the EU at about 32 billion every year. They grant a seal of approval to ingredients, food and cosmetics.

For restaurants the situation is different: Muslims can choose from among 120 European restaurants. But restaurants that offer a fusion of Arabic cuisine with elements of Italian, French or German fare could easily qualify as Halal. A traditional French or Italian dish can also be Halal, if made with approved ingredients.

In Italy, consumption of Halal food is rising at an average of 12 per cent annually, says Sharif Lorenzini, President of the Halal International Authority.  "In Italy there are about four million Halal foodies and the number will increase with the improvement of combined certified tourist offers - hotels, restaurants, vacation resorts, etc.," Lorenzini says. "We have granted Halal certification to about 500 Italian companies."

Still the options for Halal foodies are limited in the country. "Italy has just appeared on the global Halal market. Less than one product in 1,000 is Halal certified compared to 20 to 30 per cent in countries such as France, Belgium, Germany and England," he says.

The Halal International Authority has now developed ad hoc certification modules for Italian culinary arts in collaboration with the ICIF International School of Italian Cuisine.

Europe is also a leading region for Halal nutraceuticals and vaccines, with France a major market for certified dietary supplements that are derived from Halal food sources to produce minerals, vitamins, herbs, amino acids and botanicals. They are produced in separate units to avoid cross contamination.

READ THE EDITORIAL ON khaleejtimes.com

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