Hub mislabels Halal stew made with wine

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By Madi Wong

Ryerson Eats has issued an apology after students noticed that red wine was listed as an ingredient in one of the halal meals at the Hub Café.

Located in Jorgenson Hall, the Hub Café serves a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner options. It also offers menu items to accommodate dietary and allergy needs such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and halal.

Samaa Abou Hussein, a third-year nursing student, was ordering a meal at the café when she realized that one of the halal stews had ‘red wine’ under the ingredients list. She initially thought it was a “funny mistake” that the label was on a meal that clearly wasn’t halal.

“I jokingly pointed it out to the Ryerson Eats staff member who was working [at] the time. I told her the dish says it’s halal but also says it contains red wine. She didn’t seem to understand the problem until I explicitly said that Muslims do not consume alcohol,” explained Abou Hussein.  

She said she can’t remember if the staff member said they would mention it to the chef, but the sign was left as is.

In an email statement, Voula Cocolakis, executive director of University Business Services, said Ryerson Eats was made aware of the issue after they received an email originally sent by a student to Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi.

Cocolakis said the label was incorrect as the stew was “made in accordance with halal regulations” and contained no red wine. She said Ryerson Eats has since updated the label.

“Halal red wine is sometimes added to the recipe when available, but is removed entirely when not available…the team will ensure that the ingredient listing identifies the wine as halal,” said Cocolakis.

Though halal red wine typically has the same taste as regular wine, it is made without alcohol.

“It really placed a doubt in students’ minds about Ryerson’s credibility”

“It occurred to me that Ryerson Eats may actually consider this dish halal, just because they used halal meat,” said Abou Hussein. “The signage was left where it is. It was not removed or changed until another community member filed a formal complaint.”

Abou Hussein, who is also president of the Ryerson Muslim Students’ Association, wrote about the incident on the group’s Facebook page.

“It really placed a doubt in students’ minds about Ryerson’s credibility when it says it serves halal meals,” she said.

Abou Hussein said using halal meat is not the only thing that constitutes a dish as halal. It must also not contain any alcohol and pork or pork cross-contaminated products.

“Even if ‘halal’ red wine is used, it’s careless to just put ‘red wine’ on the ingredient list, as the institution should know that any Muslim reading that would not assume or think that it’s halal,” she said.

Aly Atallah, a second-year business management student, said he uses the Hub Café services weekly.

“I think Ryerson Eats should explain exactly what happened to avoid any misunderstanding because I consider it humiliating to the Muslim community,” he said.

Abou Hussein said that accommodating to the food restrictions of all students is an essential part of respecting the diversity at Ryerson.

“The institution should take the initiative to educate themselves, or at least acknowledge their gaps in knowledge and seek clarification and education based on that,” she said.

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