KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian authorities have seized thousands of paint brushes suspected of containing pig bristles after consumers in this Muslim-majority nation demanded a crackdown, officials said Wednesday.
Pigs and dogs are considered unclean by many Muslims, who make up some 60 percent of Malaysia's 30 million people. It is illegal in the country to sell products made from any part of a pig or a dog, unless the goods are labeled and kept separately.
Zarif Anwar, an enforcement official with the domestic trade and consumer ministry, said that since Tuesday, officials nationwide have been inspecting shops selling paint brushes for art and commercial use.
He said the brushes seized were not labeled and found to have a different texture from other brushes and frayed ends, signs that they could be made from pig bristles. In some cases, the brushes had a "halal" certification that had expired, he said. The halal tag is issued by an Islamic government body to certify products safe to be used by Muslims.
The seized brushes will be sent to a lab to be examined, Zarif said.
"We want to protect consumers and we want traders to be aware of the religious sensitivity involved. This is a big offense," Zarif told The Associated Press.
He warned that traders who flout the rule face up to three years in jail, a fine of 100,000 ringgit ($22,522) or both.
Conservative attitudes have been on the rise in Malaysia. A wide range of products have been certified halal, from mineral water to a newly launched internet browser, to appeal to Muslims.
The Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia called for stricter enforcement not just for paint brushes, but for other products as well. An official from the group, Nadzim Johan, said the association also received complaints that culinary brushes used in eateries may also contain pig bristles.
"The key issue here is about labeling," he said. "We want Muslim consumers to be forewarned. It's not fair to deceive them."