Just because an eatery does not have a halal certificate does not mean the food it serves is haram, says Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom.
Jamil Khir, who is in charge of Islamic affairs, said the public should not make such conclusions.
"The perception is that when a premises doesn't have a halal certificate (it is not halal), but it does not mean that it is haram," he said in his wrap up of the Budget 2017 debate.
He said halal certification was completely voluntary, but had the added value of assuring consumers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, that food items were not only halal, but were prepared in a clean environment.
It also helped with those who might not be familiar with non-local cuisine.
"There are some among the rural community, the old and so on,.. when you mention root beer, the kampung people ask, ni bir ke rut ke (is it beer or a root)?
"These are situations where halal certification plays a role in marketing, but it is not compulsory," Jamil Khir said.
He was responding to Ngeh Khoo Ham (DAP-Beruas) who queried how to fix the perception that eateries without halal certificates should be shunned by Muslims.
It came two weeks after the controversy surrounding the word "hot dog".
Pretzel franchise Auntie Anne's had reportedly been denied halal certification due to one of their products being named "Pretzel Dog".
This was in line with the Islamic Development Department regulations introduced two years ago that food names should not contain elements that may confuse Muslims such as "beer" and "ham".
However, Jamil Khir had previously stressed that the name of food items did not determine whether or not it is halal, but rather, its contents.
His deputy, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki had also said that food names could be negotiated.- Mkini