Health minister S. Subramaniam said he had instructed his food-safety division to investigate the issue after reports emerged of 10 allegedly fake stevia products being found on the market.
“Under the Food Act, if there is contamination, sale of imitation food products or wrong information related to any type of food, offenders face action,” Subramaniam said.
The minister was responding to reports in a Malay-language newspaper that laboratory tests on 10 samples by two universities had shown that none contained plant extracts. Rather, a combination of dangerous chemicals were allegedly found instead.
A natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni plant, stevia contains steviol glycosides which act as a powerful sugar substitute with a negligible effect on blood glucose, making it popular among diabetics.
Citing Section 13 of the Food Act 1983, Noor Hisham Abdullah, deputy director of the health ministry, said that anyone found guilty of selling fake stevia faced a 10-year prison sentence and/or a fine of RM100,000 (US$22,650).