According to Subramaniam, the legal action would serve as a warning to other manufacturers claiming to sell authentic, natural sweetener products to cease sale of products with artificial ingredients.
“We hope that other companies will take heed,” he said, adding that the ministry would continue to vigilantly monitor stevia products that are sold in the market.
Fake stevia in violation with Food Act 1983
The issue of fake stevia products came to the attention of the Health Ministry after the news reported last month that a lab test conducted by Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia and Universiti Putra Malaysia found that none out of 10 different brands of stevia products sold in the country actually contained the natural sweetener.
Instead, the products, which were available in local markets or sold online, were found to contain a combination of hazardous chemicals that could be dangerous to consumers.
“The ministry is investigating the matter to ascertain the products comply with food laws,” said health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah at the time, adding that the standards for stevia extract products is regulated and set by Regulation 118A of the Food Regulations 1985, Food Act 1983.
The Food Safety and Quality Division of the Health Ministry has since conducted a thorough research and checked on approximately 15 stevia manufacturers in the country.
“So far, only one company has been identified as selling fake stevia products,” Subramaniam announced.
“Their labels are also wrong, as they claim to sell authentic products when they are not. This is a clear violation of the law,” he added. "As such, we have ordered the company to recall its product from the market. Firms found to be misrepresenting its product can be investigated under the Food Act 1983.”
Public urged to remain vigilant as consumers
"The ministry will continue to monitor stevia products in the country, and if any (other) company is found to have violated the Food Act 1983, legal action will be taken and the public will be informed," Noor Hisham said, as he encouraged the public to be alert of any consumer products that could be hazardous to health, and to contact their district Health Department should they have any queries on issues regarding food safety and security.
This is because there have been recurring issues on dangerous chemicals identified in consumer products, not just in food but also in cosmetic products and health supplements, reported in the country.
"The ministry is aware of and concerned over issues which could harm the public's health," he added. MIMS
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