The misuse of halal labels in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, though not yet widespread, must be curbed, the region's top official said.
Ningxia is home to more than 2 million Hui people, the majority of whom are Muslims. It is one of the biggest markets for halal food in China.
"The region fully respects the Hui traditions, but expanding the halal concept can cause unnecessary misunderstandings and even distance among people from different ethnic groups," Li Jianhua, Party chief of Ningxia, said on the sidelines of the ongoing annual session of the national legislature.
The term halal designates food and drink allowed to be consumed by Muslims. He said China has set strict standard on halal food.
Halal can be applied to products containing meat or oil, Li said, but labeling pure water and paper as halal is inappropriate.
Ma Li, vice-chairman of the region, said people and businesses sometimes call their products halal to make them more appealing to Muslim customers, without fully understanding the scope of the term.
Religious extremists have also made use of it to isolate Muslims from the rest of the community, he said.
Ningxia has started to remove the wrongly labeled halal products from the markets and educate manufacturers about the correct concept of halal, Ma said.
China also stepped up quality control efforts in the production of halal food last year to protect the rights of the 23 million Muslims in China.
Li said Ningxia has been enforcing its cooperation with Muslim countries because the mutual understanding in religion and culture gives the region advantages.
Although Islam was brought into China from abroad, it has already been integrated into Chinese society. "The mosques in Ningxia have inherited the traditional architectural style of the buildings from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and Hui people's Islamic culture is part of the Chinese culture," Li said.