An interesting news article in yesterday's Berita Harian Online caught my eye. It is a classic example of misplaced priorities. It seems that a 56-year old lady from Terengganu, Puan Rahani Ali, has been found guilty of selling belacan (shrimp paste) that contained less than a specified amount of protein.
According to the Peraturan-peraturan Makanan 1985, belacan shall have a protein content of not less than 25%. The belacan packed and sold by Rahani has only 23.75% protein, and for that she was fined RM600 by the Dungun Majistrate Court.
The full article can be read at this link -> Pembungkus Belacan Di Denda RM600.
After reading the article a few times, I am actually surprised that the case went to court. To me, the District Health Officer should have considered the educational rather than prosecutional approach. I sincerely doubt the lady knew that there had to be a certain amount of protein in her belacan. Heck... I don't think she even knows what protein is! After all, she only re-packs and distribute the stuff. The belacan is made by someone else.
To be penalised for a mere 1.25% shortfall clearly shows overzealousness. Couldn't she have been let off with a warning? Would it not have been better for the District Health Officer to advise her on the correct thing to do? It is not as if consumers of the belacan would face nutritional problems because of 1.25% less protein content!
This episode is quite an eye-opener. It raises a lot of other questions. I don't think many of us know that there is such a ruling for the production of belacan. Apart from protein, what other minimum content requirements are there? What about salt content or other chemicals? Does the ruling apply to other traditional food items such as budu and cencaluk too?
Well, whatever it is, belacan manufacturers all over Malaysia should beware. The next time you the consumer, buy your pack of belacan, make sure the label carries the requisite nutritional information. Otherwise you may be buying something that is illegal.