Monday, 17 August 2015
Belgian fruit syrup faces boycott calls over halal labelling

From The Telegraph

A fruit syrup that has been a staple of Belgian kitchens for generations is at the centre of a row over national identity, after its manufacturers applied for ‘halal’ certification.

The makers of Sirop de Liège, a molasses made of stewed apples, dates and pears and known by its distinctive blue and green pot, face a bitter backlash after they sought to tap into overseas Islamic markets.

The Siroperie Meurens, the family business that has been boiling fruit to the same recipe since 1902, faces calls for a boycott and has been inundated with graphic online abuse since it announced the move.

Securing ‘halal’ certification would help the firm to target markets such as Indonesia and Egypt, at a time when the European fruit industry is under pressure due to sanctions on Russia that have halted food exports.

The move would confirm to Muslim consumers that the sticky brown syrup, which is eaten with bread and pancakes, or used as an ingredient in meatball sauces, does not contain pork gelatine. The recipe would stay the same, as would the labelling, the firm said. 

“Everything is going global. We need to meet the expectations of different markets,” said Bernard Meurens, whose great-grandfather founded the firm. He was taken back by the reaction after the policy was covered in La Meuse, the regional newspaper. Some readers claimed the product is now unfit for Catholics.

Social media users posted pictures of their syrup pots being hacked in half with machetes, in the style of an Islamic State atrocity video, or posted cartoons of bearded fighters beheading pears. Others wrote ‘Je Suis Sirop de Liège’, in a parody of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. 

Joseph Charlier, a former local leader of the Mouvement Reformateur, the governing liberal party, posed outside the factory with a pot of syrup in protest, saying he was “scandalised”. “At 68 years old, I will not accept anything that requires me to eat halal,” he said. “It is a question of principle. Attitudes like those of Meurens will destroy our civilisation,” he said, adding that Belgium will soon “be under the control of extremists.” 

Some 1,200 Belgian products, including quintessentially national dishes such as waffles, fries and chocolates, already have halal certification. But the row over fruit syrup comes as relationships between Belgium’s estimated 600,000 Muslims and the rest of the population appear to worsen. Anti-Muslim graffiti is said to have proliferated following the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Posted on 08/17/2015 12:22 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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