Cadbury Malaysia faces boycott over pork traces

Indonesia tests Cadbury products after pig DNA was found in some of its products in Malaysia

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Anger among Muslims in Malaysia over the contamination of Cadbury products with pork DNA is mounting, with retail and consumer groups calling for a boycott after two chocolate varieties were found to have infringed Islamic rules by containing pork DNA.

Cadbury Malaysia on Monday recalled Dairy Milk hazelnut and Dairy Milk roast almond products from the shelves after the finding by Malaysian authorities in a random test.

Products in the Muslim majority Southeast Asian nation are regularly checked to ensure they are halal, or permissible according to Islamic law.

Cadbury Malaysia only sells to the local market. Mondelez's Malaysia sales are a small fraction of the around 15 percent of its revenues that come from the Asia-Pacific region, but concerns over halal standards could jeopardize sales in bigger Muslim markets, such as Indonesia and the Middle East.

A Muslim retail group said on Thursday the 800 stores it represents would be asked to stop selling all products made by Cadbury, Mondelez and U.S. food giant Kraft, which acquired Cadbury in 2010 in a $19-billion deal.

Kraft subsequently spun off its North American grocery business as Kraft Foods Group.

Mondelez is the name of what remains of Kraft Foods Inc after the spin-off. Its brands include Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers, which were among more than a dozen products the Muslim groups urged Malaysians to boycott.

“This will teach all companies in Malaysia to maintain and protect the sensitivities of Malaysians,” Sheikh Abdul Kareem Khadaied, the head of research with the Muslim Consumers Association Malaysia, told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

The companies should have apologized and recalled all their products voluntarily.

“This is an issue that cuts across religion,” he told Reuters. “It affects the vegetarians as much as it affects the Muslims.”

Cadbury Malaysia said in a statement this week that it was working closely with the Islamic Affairs Department to ensure its products meet halal guidelines. It said the authorities were running more tests and would announce the results within a week.

A spokeswoman for Cadbury Malaysia declined to respond to the call for a nationwide boycott.

Muslim retail and consumer groups said a full boycott of Cadbury and other products was needed because the contamination was unlikely to have been limited to just the two types of chocolate.

“Although only two products were listed as contaminated, since the same mechanism is used to produce other products, doubt exists in our minds that all products could be exposed to the same contamination,” said Bazeer Ahmad, an adviser with the Malaysian Muslim Wholesalers and Retailers Association.

Indonesian authorities said Friday they were also carrying out tests on Cadbury chocolate.

The two products recalled in Malaysia – Dairy Milk hazelnut and Dairy Milk roast almond – are not among items Cadbury sells in Indonesia, according to Food and Drugs Monitoring Agency chief Roy Alexander Sparringa.

“But as a precautionary approach, we will collect samples of Cadbury products circulating here and conduct laboratory tests,” Sparringa told AFP.

He said that any Dairy Milk hazelnut and Dairy Milk roast almond products in the country would have been illegally imported and any found by authorities would be immediately destroyed.

Cadbury's Indonesian office could not be immediately contacted, but it has tried to allay fears by reiterating that the products in question are not sold in Indonesia.

Ten Cadbury products have obtained halal certification from the country's top Islamic body, the Indonesian Council of Ulema.

Anger among Muslims in Malaysia over the contamination is mounting, with one senior religious official calling for a hefty fine or a shutdown of the Malaysian plant.

[With AFP and Reuters]

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