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Sausage-making is an age-old home tradition, whereby meat scraps and fats were mixed and stuffed into animal intestines or casings in a cylindrical shape to become a sausage.
Curing, drying or smoking was and is generally the process used for preserving sausages. The casings, on the other hand, could have an animal or synthetic base. Nowadays, no matter where you go in the world – on all seven (7) continents – you would find a sausage from some type and some name or the other. However, sausage-making has become much more sophisticated and it has actually developed into an industry and a lucrative business within its own right. In fact, concerned consumers started questioning the different raw materials used in sausages. The issue of mislabeling and inadequate information about what we eat also came under scrutiny. This actually poses a health risk for the consumers of meat/poultry and sausages. For some others, it has become offensive to eat after realizing that they were misled or misinformed about what was inside (i.e. the ingredients of) a sausage or meat/poultry products.
Sausage Meats & Fats
One aspect of global food safety is that governments have started to regulate the sausage-making industry. Food regulations also vary from one country to the other. Like in South Africa, the meat/fat ratio in sausages is 80/20 (20% fat); whereas, in the United States the fat-ratio varies from 30% to 35% and even up to 50%. This meat/fat ratio may differ and vary, but for more meat and lesser to no fat, the drier and more brittle the sausage becomes when cooking, frying or barbequing it. Thus, the meat/fat ratio must be “perfect”. The fat component is essential because it adds value to the texture and flavour of the sausage. There is also no stipulation from which meat/animal the fat may be extracted.
Sausage Mixtures & Ingredients
The statutory regulation allows butchers or sausage-makers to mix their own meat combinations of mutton, beef, pork or veal and/or chicken or any other meat or poultry types. The sausage variety is vast, depending in which country the sausage is made and as long as the meat/fat ratio is observed. For example, one could find sausage names like beef, mutton, ostrich, veal, pork, chicken, reindeer, moose, rabbit, bear, elk or game sausage, etc.
One also finds fish sausages, which is a famous cuisine in Japan and vegetarian sausages. Additives, like spices and flavorings may also be added to the sausage to enhance the taste of it. Then there is also what is known as blood sausage, whereby the blood of certain animals or fowls is cooked or dried and thereafter cooled to the extent that it can become congealed for sausage-making. The irony is that one sausage-type could comprise of one meat-type, but most of the time a sausage is a mixture of one, or two or various types of meat/poultry products. This is besides the non-disclosure from which animal the fats are derived and not mentioning the allergens in these products. There is also a peculiar notion in the meat industry that pork must be added to every sausage ingredient-mix because such a mixture enhances the taste and texture of the sausage. Veal meat is actually considered the leanest of all meats, and pork the fattiest.
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The Halal Perspective
The production process of a sausage and the ingredients used in it are the critical points where the Halal Standards need to be applied. For starters, under no circumstances may pork or any derivatives from the pig be used or come in contact with the production of sausages, the extraction or use of fats, the processing of casings and/or in any additives, spices or flavorings. The use of alcohol in any of these production and processing procedures is considered as contamination, thus not permitted. Under no circumstance may blood be used, whatsoever.
In conjunction with the Halal Standards, mixing of meat products in sausage-making is permissible, but then the individual meat-source, the fats-extraction and all the additives, spices or flavourings must be strictly halal. The allergens must also be declared. The aforementioned conditions strictly apply to the hygiene and other food safety (e.g. HACCP) features of sausage-making. This includes the labeling, transporting, packaging and shelving aspects of sausage-making must be strictly controlled and punitive measures must be impinged for deliberate negligence, misinformation, non-compliance and violations by the sausage-makers and suppliers.
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The Halal Standards Directive
Due to doubt and not knowing exactly what one eats, Muslims – with the immediate effect – should stop eating and buying sausages and other ‘suspect’ meat or poultry products even from Muslim butchers. However, should they buy sausages and other meat or poultry products from these Muslim butchers or from any other outlet, like halal certified meat sections in supermarkets or halal certified cafés or restaurants, they must insist on a detail Product/Food Specification of all the ingredients in the sausages, boerewors or any other meat or poultry products or cuisine. If not, the Muslim consumer must not buy it – period!
It is the consumer’s right that all types of sausages and other meat/poultry products must have, at least, the following general Product/Food Specifications attached to it (which is currently not a common practice, but it must be introduced as a matter of priority), viz.:
- The Batch Number (i.e. the preparation of a single volume of ingredient-mix used at the same time for a particular sausage-type would be considered the first batch, thereafter the second ingredient-mix, etc.);
- The Ingredient-Specification (i.e. the meat-type(s) used in the sausage, including the fat-derivatives and the percentage thereof must be declared);
- The Product Shelve-Life (i.e. the production, expiry and best before dates);
- The Basic Nutritional Value of the product;
- Name of the Product Producer;
- Name of the Halal Certifier or their Logo Stamp.