In an official statement, the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Brunei (MoRA) announced earlier this month that the Halal Food Control Division had sent samples of the White Rabbit candy to be analysed by the Health Ministry’s Scientific Services Department, which tested positive for pig protein.
“As such, MoRA is calling upon importers and retailers to separate this product from general shelves and put it in the ‘Non-Halal’ section, and for Islamic consumers to stay away from and not eat this product,” said the ministry.
“[We would] also like to remind all food importers to Brunei to take the necessary steps and transparently and responsibly label the ingredients of the imported food items in Bahasa Melayu or English so as for consumers to make accurate purchasing choices.”
MoRA went on to warn that ‘wrongful, confusing or deceiving labelling’ is punishable by up to five years in prison, a monetary penalty or both under the Public Health Act (Food) Term 182 9(b).
Retailers with Halal certificates or permits were also reminded that the selling, serving or usage of unauthorized food products was punishable by a penalty of not more than B$8,000 (US$5,825), not more than two years in prison, or both.
Following this, the Sarawak Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) in Malaysia has announced that it would also be conducting tests on White Rabbit candy in the country.
According to Business Insider, Minister-in-charge of Islamic affairs Abdul Rahman Junaid said that the candy does not carry a halal logo, and that it would remain on shelves until test results are out.
Reactions to non-halal announcement
Although consumer reactions online have been mild thus far, Bruneian food manufacturers that have been making products using the candy have responded much more strongly.
Local ice cream firm Project Ice Cream announced on its Instagram account that in an effort to be ‘Better safe than sorry’, it was removing White Rabbit flavoured ice cream from its repertoire of flavours.
“Because of some concerning ingredients used in white rabbit candy, we are taking an immediate action and have decided to discontinue our White Rabbit ice cream,” it said.
The same step was taken by gelato company Rumah Gelato, which also took to Instagram to post a ‘Sorry for the inconvenience’ message to customers and announcing that it would be taking ‘all necessary steps to clean [all] equipment and facilities thoroughly’.
If Malaysian authorities make the same findings as Brunei, the same situation will likely apply as local ice cream shops such as Inside Scoop have also introduced White Rabbit flavoured ice cream.
Previous negative news
White Rabbit Candy is manufactured by Shanghai company Guan Sheng Yuan and has been popular in the South East Asian region for decades, with many describing it as a ‘childhood memory’.
It experienced not only a resurgence but also a sharp upturn in popularity earlier this year, when Los Angeles ice cream shop Wanderlust Creamery developed White Rabbit flavoured ice cream and went viral.
Later, Guan Sheng Yuan revealed to Zhoudao that no permission had been given to Wanderlust to use the candy, to which the ice cream shop responded that it had ‘been careful in trying to avoid creating any impression’ that the flavour was ‘sponsored or otherwise authorized’ by the company.
“We would like to make clear that Wanderlust Creamery does not now, and has never, used the White Rabbit logo or the White Rabbit candy wrapper design in serving ice cream to customers in any of our stores,” it told Business Insider.
“However, some customers have brought their own White Rabbit candy wrappers to wrap their purchased cones of ice cream for their own social media photos.”