BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – After White Rabbit Creamy Candy was declared non-halal by Brunei’s religious authorities last week, local ice cream vendors have moved to restore customer confidence by closing their shops for several days in order to undergo thorough cleaning of their equipment and premises.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) said they will assist ice cream parlors with the cleaning process, to ensure any halal-certified vendor adheres to the regulations laid out under the Halal Certificate and Label Order.

On Saturday, the ministry said lab testing found that the much-loved candy White Rabbit contained pork protein, and ordered retailers to remove the product from shelves and placed in the non-halal section of supermarkets.

The popularity of the candy recently saw a resurgence due to the White Rabbit-flavoured ice cream trend sweeping Malaysia and Brunei.

“We received a lot of messages and DMs about the issue,” said Mordeny Hj Modihi, founder of Rumah Gelato Frozen Treats.

“Many customers have asked whether Rumah Gelato is doing the cleaning properly. We have taken all the appliances and equipment to our branch in Serusop, the store with the biggest kitchen for the cleaning process, and the process was assisted by officers from the Halal Food Control Division,” he told The Scoop.

Rumah Gelato has six branches, and as of Sunday, three outlets resumed operation following a temporary closure to allow for the cleaning. 

Mordeny added that his stores stopped selling White Rabbit ice cream back in April after they ran out of stock.

Rumah Gelato staff cleaning kitchen appliances following the announcement that White Rabbit Creamy Candy was found to contain pork protein. Photo: Courtesy of Rumah Gelato

Founder of Project Ice Cream, Syikin Kariya, said the company has been transparent with their customers, posting an announcement to social media more than a week ago, stating that they would discontinue production of White Rabbit ice cream after they a few of their followers expressed concern over the candy’s halal status.  

Project Ice Cream currently has two locations: their flagship in Kiarong and a scooping station at the Bloom Project in Citis Square.

Syikin said cleaning of Project Ice Cream’s kitchen was completed on Monday and they were ready to re-open whenever they get the green light from the Halal Food Control Division.

Senior religious officer at the division, Ahmad Haziq Hj Abd Hamid, said businesses with a halal certificate are required to send any new products for testing to the Brunei Islamic Religious Council.

Under the Halal Certificate and Label Order, food products used, sold or served by halal-certified vendors must be approved by the Brunei Islamic Religious Council. Offenders can be fined up to $8,000 and/or sentenced to two years in prison for failing to do so.

“It is an offence to fail to comply with any requirements under the Order, such as failure to submit an application with respect to new products or changes in the ingredients,” he told The Scoop.

Upon receipt of the application, the committee will inspect the vendor’s premises and analyse any products before approving proposed changes, Ahmad added.

Asked if any legal action will be taken against the ice-cream shops for selling a product that had not been approved by halal authorities, the officer said: “According to the law, it is an offence. But we cannot say for now… what we are doing now is immediately cleaning the equipment which must be taken seriously.” 

This article was last updated on May 22, 2019.