Muslim retail and consumer groups on Thursday called for a boycott of products made by British-based confectioner Cadbury and its parent Kraft Foods Group Inc after two chocolate varieties were found to have contravened Islamic rules by containing pork DNA.
Cadbury Malaysia, a part of Mondelez International Inc, on Monday recalled the Dairy Milk chocolates after Malaysian authorities found the pork traces during a random test. Products in this Muslim majority Southeast Asian nation are regularly checked to ensure they are halal, or permissible according to Islamic law.
Cadbury Malaysia only sells its products in 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 jeopardise sales in far bigger Muslim markets such as Indonesia.
A Muslim retail group said on Thursday that the 800 stores it represents would be asked to stop selling all products made by Cadbury and 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 that the Muslim groups called on 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. He said the companies should have apologised and recalled all their products voluntarily. Cadbury Malaysia said in a statement this week that it was working closely with the Islamic Affairs Department to ensure its products complied with halal guidelines.
It said the authorities were conducting more tests and would announce their results within a week. A spokeswoman for Cadbury Malaysia declined to respond on Thursday to the call for a nationwide boycott. The Muslim retail and consumer groups said a full boycott of Cadbury and other products was needed because the contamination was unlikely to have been confined 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 advisor with the Malaysian Muslim Wholesalers and Retailers Association.
In addition to pork, items considered non-halal under Islamic law include alcohol and the meat of animals and birds that are not slaughtered according to Islamic rites.