KUALA LUMPUR - A major traders association is mobilising its members to temporarily halt the sale of beef-based products following reports that a cartel had been importing non-certified meat and passing it off as halal products to Malaysian suppliers.
The Kuala Lumpur Bumiputera Traders and Hawkers Association, which has a 6,000-strong membership, said the move was necessary in the wake of doubts over the halal status of frozen beef in the market.
Its president, Datuk Seri Rosli Sulaiman, said the association was instead urging them to shift to fish and chicken-based food items for the time being.
"This was our advice to the hawkers. We have asked them to stop promoting beef-based dishes, especially those involving imported frozen beef.
"We have other options available such as chicken and fish which we can eat without any hesitation about their halal status. So they should sell that more," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
He said following news reports which had raised questions over the halal status of beef products currently in the market, the association had been beset by queries from the public.
"We've received feedback from association members who said customers have begun asking about the authenticity of the halal status of the beef products used.
"These are association members who operate food businesses in restaurants and hawker centres and as such deal with a large volume of customers.
"Given the current situation, we feel that it is best if we stop selling beef-based products for the moment," he said.
Rosli said the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia should step up and issue a clarification on the issue.
"As the agency responsible for halal certification, they have to explain the matter, more so given that the problem is apparently a longstanding one," he said.
Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said it was imperative that restaurant owners check the source of the meat from their suppliers.
"They must check if the meat is sourced from Muslim countries or is halal-certified.
"This is no joke, we cannot take this lightly. For Muslims, consuming non-halal meat is similar to drinking alcohol," he said.
He said the onus was on restaurant owners to ensure that the meat they serve is certified halal by the authorities so that their customers can enjoy the food without any doubt.
The NST had on Monday reported how officers in at least four government agencies were bribed by the meat cartel to ensure that its supply of non-certified meat entered the country and bypassed checks.
A source told the NST that by importing non-certified meat and mixing it with meat from legitimate sources, the cartel profited from avoiding taxes and duties as well as the costs involved in the halal-certification process.
The report stated that the cartel's activities had been going on for 40 years.
In a subsequent report, a source revealed that the frozen meat imported by the cartel from non-certified countries was not limited to beef, but also included horse and kangaroo meat.
The meat would then be mixed in warehouses nationwide run by the cartel before being sold to unsuspecting suppliers.
Source: New Straits Times