While eating at a popular fast-food restaurant, a Muslim man noticed that a cook was frying bacon on the same grill as his burger patty. After complaining about the cook’s “non-halal” method, the manager had to set him straight.
Raz Domingo, a Kiwi Muslim man living in New Zealand, walked into a Better Burger chain in Auckland to order his usual all-beef hamburger.
As a Muslim, he makes an effort to only eat at restaurants that he knows comply with his religious requirement of a pork-free diet. Domingo was outraged when he saw that, behind the counter, the cook was frying bacon on the same grill as his burger patty.
He immediately got the staff’s attention to complain that the cook had ‘contaminated’ the grill with pork, which would taint his food, angrily reminding them that they are supposed to prepare halal meat without coming into contact with any pork products.
One employee explained to Domingo that, as only one grill was working, they have no choice but to prepare all food on the same grill. In response, Domingo said that he would just go eat at another Better Burger location.
The employee then informed him that this is the standard method of food preparation for all of Better Burger’s restaurants. It was then that Domingo realized that he had been eating pork-tainted meat every time he ate at the restaurant.
“Had I not asked the question I would have been none of the wiser, and that doesn’t sit well with me,” he said after the incident.
Angry over unknowingly eating pork-tainted meat, Domingo chastised the staff for claiming that their food was “certified halal,” and vowed to take the issue to the media.
The response he got from the restaurant chain’s spokesperson made the issue much worse.
Josh Harre, Better Burger’s operations manager, informed Domingo that the restaurant actually is not at fault in this situation, because Better Burger does not advertise its burgers as halal-certified. While the restaurant chain does purchase certified halal meat from its supplier, it has never claimed to follow halal standards.
“The butcher that we use is halal certified and that’s the information we share with customers. Given the kitchen layout of our different restaurants, the one at Sylvia Park, Mt Eden and the airport all do have a separate grill for bacon. The two sites in the city, purely based on the layout, don’t and that’s why we don’t advertise [halal] as a brand message,” Harre said.
After realizing that he had been eating meat they falsely believed to be halal, Domingo is concerned that other Muslims may be making the same mistake.
“The only reason we eat there is because we were told at the beginning that they were halal and their menus were halal,” he said. “Yes their meats are still halal, however, once they contaminate it by cooking it on the same grill it [defeats the purpose]. I am disappointed because I enjoyed their burgers. There will be lots of other Muslims that are going there thinking they are eating halal food which is not really.”
News outlet Tap Haps makes a good point in their conclusion to this story, writing: “The incident is an important lesson in awareness and personal responsibility. It is up to the customers to educate themselves on what they are eating, especially when the restaurant hasn’t implied that it adheres to certain dietary restrictions in the first place.”