Saudi Arabia tests Cadbury chocolates for pork after traces found in Malaysia
Calls for boycott after two products made in Malaysia found to violate Islamic standards
Reuters in Riyadh
Saudi Arabian authorities said they were testing chocolate bars made by British confectioner Cadbury for traces of pork DNA after two of its products in Malaysia were found to violate Islamic standards.
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority said in a statement that it had taken samples of Cadbury chocolates from the local market to test for contamination.
Pork is strictly prohibited in Islam. Saudi Arabia, the religion's birthplace, adheres to one of the world's most stringent forms of the faith.
The statement said Cadbury products on sale in Saudi Arabia, an ultra-conservative Muslim country, were not manufactured in Malaysia, but added that "strong measures" would be taken if the chocolates being tested revealed any traces of pork.
The scandal over the ingredient discovered in Malaysian Cadbury's chocolates has prompted outrage among some Muslim groups in the country, who have called for a boycott on all products made by the company, and its parent, Mondelez International.
On Friday, Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation, also said it was testing Cadbury products to check that they complied with Islamic standards.
Malaysian authorities have warned that it remains unclear if the contamination of two varieties of Dairy Milk chocolate bar with pork was Cadbury's fault or a result of "external factors".
Cadbury Malaysia said it had withdrawn the two products as a precaution and that it had no reason to believe there was pork-related content in its other foods.
"We stand by our halal certification and we have the highest levels of product labelling standards," it said.
Non-halal food scandals have erupted in Southeast 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.
The then Indonesian president stepped in to try to defuse the row which had hit the company's share price. Ajinomoto's local company subsequently publicly apologised and withdrew some products from the Indonesian market.
Mondelez is the name of what remains of Kraft Foods after it spun off its North American grocery business as Kraft Foods Group. Its brands include Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers.
Malaysia's National Fatwa Council, which issues official guidance on Islamic issues, said on Friday that 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 be intentional.