INDONESIAN authorities have launched tests on products made by British confectioner Cadbury to check they complied with Islamic standards after two chocolate varieties in neighbouring Malaysia were found to be contaminated with pork DNA.
The scandal over the ingredient, banned under Islamic halal dietary laws, has sparked outrage among some Muslim groups in Malaysia, who have called for a boycott on all products made by Cadbury and its parent, Mondelez International.
Concerns over halal food standards could jeopardise Mondelez’s sales in Muslim markets that are larger than Malaysia, such as Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, and the Middle East.
“After such an incident, it is prudent to do a test on the other variants to see if they also have traces of the pig DNA. We may have the result in a few days,” Roy Alexander Sparingga, head of Indonesia’s Food & Drug Monitoring Agency, said.
Mr Sparingga said the tests would be done on the ten varieties of Cadbury products that are certified in Indonesia as halal – or permissible according to Islamic law. Those products did not include the two types of Dairy Milk chocolate that Cadbury Malaysia recalled this week after finding traces of pork.
Malaysian Islamic authorities tried to cool anger against Cadbury by saying it remained unclear if the contamination was the company’s fault.
“People need to understand that we can’t immediately take action against Cadbury when there’s no solid evidence yet or if contamination occurred in the factory itself or if it was external factors,” said Othman Mustapha, the director general of Malaysia’s department of Islamic development, or Jakim.
“What’s happening to Cadbury now is akin to a person who’s remanded and placed in lock-up. They have not been found guilty so this is just a suspension,” he added.
Cadbury Malaysia said it had withdrawn the two products as a precaution and that it had no reason to believe there was pork content in its other foods.
Products in Muslim nations are regularly checked to ensure they are halal. Besides pork, items considered non-halal by Muslims include alcohol and the meat of animals and birds that have not been slaughteredaccording to Islamic rites.
Non-halal food scandals have erupted in south-east Asia before. In 2001, Japanese food giant Ajinomoto became embroiled in a similar case after the Indonesian council of Ulemas, the highest Islamic authority, accused the company of using pig enzymes in the production process of the widely used seasoning monosodium glutamate.
On Thursday, a Malaysian retail group said it would ask the 800 stores it represents to stop selling all products made by Cadbury, Mondelez and Kraft, which acquired Cadbury in 2010 in an £11.3 billion deal.
Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council said yesterday it supported the withholding of halal status on the two Cadbury products but that the company should not be punished unless the breach was proven to beintentional.