First halaal lab in Africa to open in Obs

TAURIQ HASSEN

The Centre for Proteomic and Genomic Research (CPGR) in Observatory has announced the launch of Tokeid Biotech, a new laboratory catering to the halaal industry – the first of its kind in Africa.

Tokeid Biotech, which is to be launched on Wednesday June 1, is a service laboratory focusing on increasing scientific capacity in detecting adulteration and contamination of foods derived from animals and plants.

Managing director, Kamaal Salasa, said: “It’s a black-owned, majority youth-owned company in the high-tech sector of biotechnology. The idea for Tokeid Biotech had its beginnings in the media, where we saw stories of fish and meat fraud, both locally and internationally. We saw the public outrage when it was discovered illegal labelling practices were taking place – labels often didn’t fully disclose the contents of the products, and sometimes even described a completely different product to what was in the packaging.”

He added that mislabelling and misleading labelling are “illegal and immoral”, and that the company believes the public has the right to know exactly what they are consuming.

“We investigated the market and found that this was an international problem, and that it was a problem that was particularly worrying to the halaal industry. It was then a matter of approaching the right partners and matching the right technologies,” Mr Salasa said.

CPGR is a non-profit organisation providing state-of-the-art “omics” services to the life science and biotech communities in South Africa.

Through CPGR, halaal bodies and independent individuals will have convenient access to high-end discovery and targeted molecular technologies that will provide comfort for consumers.

Tokeid Biotech has partnered with the KAAF Trust, the MAZI Trust and the CPGR, who were all very eager to pursue this project and, with its extensive expertise, Tokeid Biotech was able to craft a service offering that is unique, relevant and powerful.

“The halaal certifiers have also been eager to embrace our ideas, and they includes international halaal authorities pursuing the aim of global halaal standards harmonisation,” Mr Salasa said.

Dr Anwah Nagia, chairman of the board of Tokeid Biotech as well as the chairman of the Kaaf Trust, said that, for the first time in history, they will now have the capabilities to offer a comprehensive service to the certifiers.

“We need to give exposure to this offering, both to the local community and the national community at large. The community, will for the first time, have the assurance from a scientific point of view and can verify the process,” Dr Nagia said.

He added that the five-year plan for Tokeid Biotech is to be fully staffed, offering training to others on the continent and becoming a global leader in this field.

The process followed at Tokeid Biotech usually sees them receiving samples at an ISO-accredited facility.

They process those samples according to GLP (good laboratory practice), applying “cutting-edge in-house and gold standard technologies”, before handing over a certificate of analysis to their clients to demonstrate that they take food integrity very seriously.

“Tokeid Biotech is a movement to protect the integrity of our food. But more practically, we are a laboratory doing cool experiments,” Mr Salasa said.

Tokeid Biotech is currently in advanced engagements with major halaal certifiers across the Western Cape, working on the most effective way of rolling out the service.

Mr Salasa added: “Food integrity is a broad field, so our door will be open to anyone who will benefit from our services.”

The launch, taking place on Wednesday June 1, will be about highlighting the importance of the issues Tokeid Biotech seeks to address, and to demonstrate the capabilities of Tokeid Biotech in effectively tackling these.

“We want to showcase the extensive platforms and cutting-edge technologies we will leverage and develop. We want to show our stakeholders that we are knowledge-generators, youth-developers and problem-solvers,” Mr Salasa said.