The responsibility for such product scrutinizing rests with the State Islamic Affairs Department (SAID) of Borneo, which will work with the country’s food regulator, a SAID spokesperson told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We are looking at ensuring that halal canned food imported from China and sold at retailers in the state of Sarawak is actually halal. The large Muslim population in the state means we have to be extra careful,” he said.
The spokesperson added that overall food safety and quality responsibility in the country still lies with Malaysia’s Food Safety and Quality Division under the Ministry of Health.
The issue over halal food in Sarawak erupted when authorities discovered that Great Wall Corn Beef, a canned product from China, was being sold as halal food when it was not one, he pointed out.
“This product was being used by many restaurants and hotels, which offer halal food. We have instructed them not to use it anymore. Retailers have been told to pull it off the shelves,” he said.
He added that local authorities have also advised retailers to display halal and non-halal food in different sections of their shops, and consumer notices have been published via local media to warn Muslims to read the labels carefully.
“SAID will also publish a list of halal food products being sold at the state’s retailers. Customers will also be advised to look for the halal logo when shopping for such products,” he added.
The Great Wall Corn Beef did not carry a halal logo, according to the spokesperson, but writings in local language on the label gave the appearance of the product being halal.