Raya must be near, the food ban is here
| May 30, 2014
With Hari Raya fast approaching, the non-halal ban of foreign food products is here again.
If you are a foreign investor and contemplating setting up a food processing plant in Malaysia, then look away! A foreign manufacturer or importer of halal foodstuff must be very jittery. Today, Cadbury is in the spotlight, but who will it be next?
Hari Raya is around the corner! One can tell, from the raging controversy about Cadbury chocolates, which many of us receive or pack in hampers for friends and business associates.
The last manufacturer to be targeted was Ballantyne Foods Pty. Their Golden Churn Butter is a vital ingredient in “kek lapis”, which is popular especially during Raya. After the ban was enforced in July 2011 in the run-up to Raya, the “kek lapis” industry suffered an 80% drop in sales.
Consumers, both Muslim and non-Muslims must be wondering how chocolates can be contaminated with porcine DNA. The raw ingredients of a hazelnut chocolate bar are cocoa, milk, sugar and roasted hazelnuts.
Two years ago, we wondered how butter, which is made from cow’s milk and salt, could have been similarly contaminated.
A month before the butter ban, Tabasco, which contains chillies and vinegar, was found to be contaminated with pork DNA. HP Sauce was also on the haram list.
None of these foodstuff contain any pig products or parts of the pig. If the product had been a Carbonara sauce or a Bolognese sauce, then it would make sense. However, Tabasco and HP Sauce are table sauces. So, was this a malicious rumour started by a rival company? Did a Muslim extremist want to sabotage these products for his own perverted reason?
The hysterical and embarrassing scenes of Muslims reacting with outrage have gone viral. Did these Muslims stop to ask themselves, how the porcine DNA could have got into the chocolates?
Did they ask Jakim and Cadbury to find out at which point the alleged contamination occurred? Did the contamination occur with the raw ingredients, the machinery, or possible leakage of stearates from lubricants and packaging materials? Had contamination occurred during the production process?
What about the test sample itself? Was the person who took the sample scrupulously clean and analytical in his methods?
Did his testing equipment have traces of contaminant from the previous testing, especially if the product tested positive for porcine DNA? Did he touch the sample and measure his own DNA, which is very similar to pig DNA?
Here are some crucial observations.
First. Halal bans seem to occur just before Raya when the market for popular food items is increasing. Why do porcine DNA issues never crop up when there are no Muslim festivities approaching?
Second. Why are local companies rarely in trouble? Either their manufacturing techniques strictly adhere to halal guidelines, or Jakim or some misguided Muslim extremists have found it more “lucrative” to target international companies.
The popular food items which were banned are made by global giants, like Cadbury, or HP Heinz.
Why do we seldom, if ever, hear of Ahmad Makanan Enak Import-Export Enterprises of Simpang Pulai, Bala Nutri-Products of Menglembu or Wee Golden Bullion Food Manufacturers of Meru (all fictitious companies), have problems with their halal certification? Perhaps, local food producers have better manufacturing processes than the multinationals.
Third. The halal food industry is a multi-billion ringgit industry. As the Muslim population grows worldwide, their demand for halal food is increasing. However, there are no global industry standards for halal specifications.
This is just like our syariah laws. They are not standardised throughout the nation, such as the polygamy law which differs from state to state in Malaysia.
Fourth. In the previous bans, the halal certification for HP Sauce, Tabasco and Golden Churn Butter was reinstated after a few months. Why were the consumers never told what happened to spark the ban or the reasons for lifting the ban?
The companies remained tight-lipped. Were they afraid of making a press release to explain the ban? What might they have feared?
How did the contamination occur? What steps were taken to resolve this? What was the problem? What was the penalty? Why are we, always kept in the dark?
Because of the lack of transparency, speculation is rife. Naturally, there have been allegations that the halal certificate was obtained after much “negotiation”. The ban was a warning and a scare tactic.
Fifth. Some Malay Muslims are the worst hypocrites. They become hysterical about porcine contamination but they say nothing about filthy Muslim restaurants or dirty Malay hawker stalls.
They do not protest about the hundreds of people admitted to hospital nor the hundreds of deaths from food-poisoning. Some of our schools and national service camps serve filthy food or food which has past its shelf life.
The worst hypocrisy is when you nip across the border to the Thai towns. By day, Malaysian Malay men will seek halal restaurants but by night they seek the pleasures of the flesh.
Sixth. Najib Abdul Razak must be angry. Muslim NGOs screaming for compensation for their blood to be cleansed for billion dollar compensation and for factories to be burned are not exactly what he had in mind as a strategy to woo foreign investors.
With poor leadership and not a squeak from the authorities to calm things down, the Muslim NGO euphoria has escalated to a call for a boycott of Kraft Foods.
This is what happens when Umno politicians play with fire. The religious fervour which they have used to perfection over the decades to divide Malays and Malaysians has now worked against them.
Umno let the genie out of the bottle and now, the genie cannot be tamed. The same religious zeal is now working against Umno.
Foreign investors must be observing the Cadbury scandal with interest. At the same time Cadbury must wonder why Malays who visit London, stock up without hesitation on bars of Cadbury’s chocolates to bring home as presents.