Our story begins with a dairy product made mostly of milk proteins from the udders of cows, sheep, goats, buffaloes, yaks, and known to everyone as "Butter". From days of yore butter has been used as an ingredient or a kind of spread for bread and body. There are many types of food that require butter but for the purposes of this article let's put on the table the "Kek Lapis".
The Kek Lapis, or layered cake in English, is an intricate multi-layered cake in a variety of flavours like chocolate, cranberry, prune, or a mixture of all three plus durian. With colorful names like "Kek Lapis Nutella", "Kek Lapis Idola", "Kek Lapis Dayang Salhah", they have become standard fare at houses during the Hari Raya. Word from local bakers has it that Golden Churn Creamery Butter is a favourite brand in the making of Kek Lapis. There was therefore peace and contentment in butter land.
But this golden time was shattered by JAKIM, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department.
A few weeks ago JAKIM confirmed that consumer favourite Golden Churn Butter from Australia had tested positive for pig DNA and that its halal certification had been withdrawn. This was spurred by the test on a sample of Golden Churn Butter in a Sarawak lab, the results of which tested positive for DNA from the said snouted and behooved.
A further test conducted in Peninsula Malaysia however found no traces of the sensitive-to-Muslims double helix. Initial tests in Brunei concurred with this. The Brunei Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) first came out with a statement confirming that tests done at our labs concluded with a negative for said porcine DNA. There was a collective sigh of relief from bakerpreneurs (baketrepeneurs?) who use Golden Churn Butter for their baked goods.
But then in a curly twist to the tale last weekend MoRA released a statement advising folks that Golden Churn Butter is halal, but to avoid using it for the time being. Our newspapers were quick to come up with witty headlines like, "Golden Churn - Butter not". Bakers around the country wrung their floured hands, casting withering glances at rows of familiar round golden tins in the kitchen.
Muslims in Brunei are generally concerned with the halal-ness of the food they consume. In Brunei a product is awarded a 'halal' certificate or given the 'halal' brand after going through various audits and stringent laboratory testing conducted by the Halal Food Control Division under MoRA. The Development of National Halal Standards and Guidelines for Halal Food under the Ministry of Primary Resources (MIPR) is responsible for the preparation of the standard. For those interested in importing or getting goods halal certified, there is a rather concise document spelling out the Guidelines to Halal Certification over at the MIPR website.
So you can imagine the impact of casting doubt over the halal certification on a basic ingredient like butter on our small but thriving (especially during Ramadhan) local cake industry. It also became very much a matter of cakeconomics.
Imagine too the plight of producers and suppliers last week whose yellow, creamy, (and innocent) dairy product, having expensively jumped through all the necessary hoops to obtain certification and whose product had been tested and found to be swine free, became tainted by what happened overseas.
Our story ended happily when MoRA swiftly (and commendably) issued a follow-up statement this week confirming Golden Churn Creamery Butter to be halal. Commendable really for clearing up an uncertainty that threatened to disrupt so much. Commendable for the trust we have in ourselves to arrive at our own judgments on such things. A lesson on how things should be done folks, with quick steps and a firm hand.
Illustration by Cuboi Art.
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