A known fact about Malaysia is that in addition to being a multicultural country, we are also multilingual. We’re used to speaking at least two languages and maybe dabble in a third. As such, it’s not uncommon to see more than one language plastered on things for everyone to read and understand.
As it turns out, a company can be fined for not having Bahasa Melayu on its products. Jobbie Nut Butter, a peanut butter company, found this out the hard way. They were also fined for having the word “natural” on their products. The plot twist? All this came about because their competitor blew the whistle on them.
Jobbie Nut Butter is known for their natural, halal peanut butter which is not only delicious but vegetarian-friendly. Unfortunately, while their peanut butter is great, they are not exactly up to standard regulations. Regretfully, this only came to light after they were fined by health inspectors.
According to their Facebook post, Jobbie Nut Butter got a surprise visit from some health inspectors. They were told that a “customer” had complained about their product, saying it had gone bad. The inspectors asked for samples of their products and supporting documents for the investigation. As the investigation commenced, they were thrown into panic. This was the first time in their 7 years of operation that such an incident had happened.
A few days later, the inspectors returned. With grave faces, they announced they had discovered nothing wrong with their products. In fact, everything was in accordance with the regulations. “But we are going to give you two (fines),” the inspectors said. “One, because your label packaging is in English and has no Malay (on) it. Two, because you labeled the word “natural” (on) your product.” In total, their fines came up to RM7000.
They sat there as dumbfounded as the inspectors pulled out the food law and regulation book. Everything they had stated was true. Although disheartened, the company agreed with the first point. “We are in Malaysia, we should have our national language—Malay—(on) it,” they said. However, they did try to argue the second fine. “Why can’t we list the unique selling point of our product as our product contains 0% artificial stuff?” they asked.
Regardless of their feelings, Jobbie Nut Butter paid the RM7000 fine. Unfortunately, they later discovered via an internal investigation that the complaint had been lodged by a competitor. No names were mentioned, but they did leave a message for them. “I hope you know we won’t be silenced, we won’t be discouraged, we will stand stronger than ever! We will make sure you won’t be able to pester anyone else like you have pestered us!” the group passionately declared.
Although the post was made to help remind others about following regulations, some netizens felt they deserved it. “If your product follows KKM and food guidelines, then even (if your) competitor lodged (a) complaint, nothing will happen,” one comment said. “Don’t blame others for your own mistakes, no (one) can bully you if you do nothing wrong. If you do something wrong, then that (is) not bullying, (it) is justice.”
Some agreed but promised to continue buying their products. “I still love your peanut butter,” one added. Others felt this was another marketing gimmick by the group. “If they really want to inform other small and mid-size enterprises out there they can write it better (by) not playing (the) victim and pointing out the strict authorities or competitors,” a comment read.
If you’re in the food industry, it’s best to make sure you follow all the guidelines to avoid such a situation. After all, it’s better to catch mistakes early and rectify them instead of having to pay the price for it… literally.