Hot and cross: it’s a bun deal

2012-03-31 17:47

There’s no need to panic: hot cross buns are not necessary for salvation.

That’s the word from the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which is rather – well, cross – after an uproar over halaal baked goods took the country by storm this week.

The outrage around Woolworths’ hot cross buns, which are stamped with the symbol required to declare a product halaal – suitable for Muslim consumption – has even made international headlines.

With Good Friday and Easter Sunday, among the holiest days in the Christian faith, just days away, the high-end food chain’s decision to sell halaal-stamped hot cross buns raised temperatures considerably.

An email circulated this week called on Christians to boycott Woolworths, which was described by one woman as “the anti-Christ”.

But both the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the South African Council of Churches have distanced their respective constituencies from the row.

Father Chris Townsend, spokesperson for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said: “Christians are not bound by dietary laws, but need to be tolerant of those who are, for religious or cultural reasons. For them, labelling of food is important as it allows food to be chosen carefully and consumed without scandal.”

He said: “Hot cross buns are by no means biblical signs or sacraments, but are a commercial extension of a customary food eaten after Good Friday services in some countries.

“The cross marking on the hot cross bun is not a sign of blessing or consecration, but a simple confectioners’ mark. By no means are hot cross buns necessary for salvation.”

Townsend said people who had become embroiled in the furore should stop buying hot cross buns, both from Woolworths and other outlets, and should “feed a poor family bread for a month”.

Reverend Mautji Pataki, the general secretary of the SA Council of Churches, said simply: “We find no correlation between the hot cross bun and the Cross of Jesus Christ.”

Professor Yousuf Dadoo, from the department of religious studies at Unisa, said: “The hot cross bun enjoys symbolic significance for Christians, that we understand. As far as Muslims are concerned, they don’t consume them for any religions reasons whatsoever.

“The halaal stamp simply gives the green light for their consumption and simply indicates there is no problem with the ingredients, that’s it,” Dadoo told City Press.

“There are Muslims who feel that as Muslims, they should abstain from eating hot cross buns because, besides the buns’ ingredients which are above board, there is a symbolic value attached to them which doesn’t agree with the Islamic outlook.”

As to whether he would eat them, Dadoo said: “I wouldn’t mind eating them except that I am a diabetic. If you can persuade them to prepare diabetic-friendly ones for me... but then I might get chased around by fundamentalist Christians.”

Responding to the outcry, Woolworths said: “Woolworths sells hot cross buns throughout the year. They are produced in a facility that is halaal certified.

“Our desire was to offer this well-loved product on an all-inclusive basis that would not exclude any of our customers,” the company said.

“We have had complaints from some Christian customers who are unhappy about us selling hot cross buns with a halaal certification logo over the Easter period. We apologise and assure our customers that no offence was intended.”

The company had decided that next Easter it would offer both non-halaal certified hot cross buns and buns certified fit for Muslim consumption.

“We don’t like to disappoint any of our customers.”

*In a poll on, 52% of respondents said Christians were over-reacting, 39% said Woolworths was insensitive to Christians and 9% asked why Muslims were being discriminated against. A total of 263 people voted in the poll.

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