FaithWorld

Pope slams selfish food speculators, urges curbs on world commodity markets

(Traders in the Corn options pit at the CME Group signal orders shortly before the closing bell in Chicago, February 11, 2011/Frank Polich )

Pope Benedict said on Friday financial trading based on “selfish attitudes” is spreading poverty and hunger and called for more regulation of food commodity markets to guarantee everyone’s right to life. “Poverty, underdevelopment and hunger are often the result of selfish attitudes which, coming from the heart of man, show themselves in social behaviour and economic exchange,” the pope told a U.N. food agency conference.

“How can we ignore the fact that food has become an object of speculation or is connected to movements in a financial market that, lacking in clear rules and moral principles, seems anchored on the sole objective of profit?” he asked.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) food price index hit a record high earlier this year, reviving memories of soaring prices in 2007-08 that sparked riots in developing countries. That gave fresh urgency to the debate about how to improve a global food system that leaves some 925 million people hungry.

There is controversy over how much a new wave of investments by funds into commodities has contributed to pushing up prices. The issue has pitted French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who blames speculators for surging food prices and unrest in some countries, against other countries who see little interest in more market regulation.

Algerian court clears Christians of charge of flouting Ramadan by eating during day

ramadan 1Two Christian men on trial in Algeria for eating during daylight in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan were acquitted on Tuesday, a verdict their supporters said was a triumph for religious freedom.

The two men, members of Algeria’s small Protestant community, were charged with offending public morals for eating at the building site where they were working before the Ramadan fast had been broken for the day. (Photo: Food shoppers in Algiers on first day of Ramadan, August 11, 2010/Louafi Larbi)

After the judge in the small town of Ain El-Hammam, about 150 km (93.21 miles) east of the Algerian capital, ruled they were innocent, a group of about seven Protestants standing on the steps of the courthouse shouted “Hallelujah!”

French fast food chain expands halal-only outlets after sales double in trial

quick 1A French fast food chain announced on Tuesday it would almost triple its line of halal hamburger restaurants because sales had doubled in a trial that sparked a heated debate about the integration of Muslims.

The Quick chain of 358 restaurants around France said it would boost its halal-only outlets to 22 on Wednesday after the trial in eight areas with a strong Muslim population also saw a doubling of customers and a rise in the amounts they spent. Here’s their communique in French. (Photo: Halal-only Quick restaurant in Roubaix, northern France, February 18, 2010/Pascal Rossignol)

Quick, which is a challenger to the U.S. hamburger chain McDonald’s and runs franchises in seven other countries including Belgium, Russia and Algeria, said the move was purely commercial.

Pakistanis start Ramadan fasting month amid flood misery

pakistan flood 1 (Photo: Evacuees from a flooded village dodge an army truck carrying relief supplies in Pakistan’s Punjab province on August 11, 2010/Adrees Latif)

They’ve been left homeless and hungry by the worst flooding in decades, but for many Pakistanis, their suffering is no reason to ignore Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month that began in their country on Thursday.

Floods triggered by heavy monsoon rain over much of Pakistan began nearly two weeks ago, and have killed about 1,600 people and disrupted the lives of about 14 million, including about two million who have been forced from their homes.

Many survivors from flooded villages have lost their stores of food as well as crops in the field and livestock, and are surviving on occasional handouts, living in the open.

“Last Supper” paintings show how food portions grew over millenium

The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

We’ve been overeating our way through ever-larger portions over the past 1,000 years, a U.S. study revealed after studying more than 50 paintings of the Biblical Last Supper.

The study, by a Cornell University professor and his brother who is a Presbyterian minister and a religious studies professor, showed that the sizes of the portions and plates in the artworks, which were painted over the past millennium, have gradually grown by between 23 and 69 percent.

“We think that as art imitates life, these changes have been reflected in paintings of history’s most famous dinner,” said Brian Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” said in a statement.

Table Talk: French halal restaurants try gourmet cuisine

foie gras

A cook dices foie gras, 8 June 2009/Karoly Arvai

In a stylishly decorated restaurant in the heart of Paris, tucked between Bastille and Place de la Nation, Sophia Tabet is perusing a typical French menu, including foie gras, beef fillet and duck confit. But unlike other French eateries, this one offers no wine list, and all food is prepared strictly in accordance with Islamic sharia law.

“We all eat halal food. It’s nice to have a change, to be able to eat French gastronomy that’s halal,” said Tabet, 29, a customer adviser at a large financial services company.

Tabet is on a girls’ night out with work colleagues at Les Enfants Terribles, one of a new breed of up-market halal restaurants that have sprung up in and around Paris, catering to a growing population of young Muslim professionals. Another new halal eatery is Le Wok Saint Germain, a chic Thai restaurant run by Frenchman Dhieb Lagnab.

Halal food going mainstream in Europe – Nestlé

halal-parisThe business of selling food that is halal, or acceptable to Muslims, is set to grow rapidly in Europe in coming years as more supermarket chains target the sector. Frits van Dijk, executive vice president at the world’s biggest food group Nestlé, told Reuters at the World Halal Forum Europe in The Hague that he expected the halal food business in Europe to grow by 20 to 25 percent within the next decade.
(Photo: Halal hamburger restaurant in Paris suburb, 10 Aug 2005/Jacky Naegelen)

The total European halal food market is currently valued at about $66 billion, including meat, fresh food and packed food, while the global market is worth about $634 billion.“We are starting to see that these products are not just in speciality shops but are also starting to get into the mainstream of modern retailers,” said Van Dijk, pointing to Britain’s Tesco and France’s Carrefour, which stock halal goods.Milk powder, cooking aids, seasoning and sauces are among the most popular halal products in Europe at the moment, while Nestlé has recently started selling a range of meat-based and frozen food halal products in France, Van Dijk said.Read the whole story here.

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World halal standard would help $2 trillion industry, Malaysia says

halalMalaysia hopes that Muslim countries can agree on which goods and products are halal, or acceptable to Muslims, a move that would boost the $2 trillion industry, although politics and interpretation of islamic law may complicate the task.
(Photo: Halal label at Kuala Lumpur restaurant, 8 April 2005/Bazuki Muhammad)

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is working on a single standard to be applied in its 57 member countries.  Agreement to regulate the halal industry, which ranges from financial institutions to cosmetics and meat, would help trade and speed up the certification for makers of halal products.“Malaysia’s halal certification is recognised worldwide so perhaps we can play an important role in creating a global standard,” Malaysia’s religious affairs minister Jamil Khir Baharom said in an interview on Thursday. “We need a halal certification that everyone can use easily.”Muslim jurists do not always agree on what is halal. Islam prohibits the consumption of pork and prescribes how animals must be slaughtered, but there has been debate on the acceptability of non-alcoholic beer, collagen and vinegar.See the full story here.

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