The fake formula has so far had one case of poisoning reported, with one family saying it caused severe vomiting in their child who consumed the powdered milk
Malaysia’s Johor State finds itself caught in the middle of a major milk formula scandal after the Johor Domestic Trade and Consumerism Ministry seized 210 boxes of suspected fake formula from stores on Sunday, following reports of the mock product being sold.
The state director for the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism (KPDNKK), Anwar Bachok, said that the $10,000 recall was prompted after receiving complaints from concerned parents about the sale of the questionable milk product from five specific locations across the state’s capital city of Johor Baru.
The director also mentioned that there was an original report from the milk producer that encouraged them to look into the possibility of contamination.
“[The report was] regarding a baby who suffered severe vomiting after taking an infant formula which was later found to be fake by the producer,” Bachok said to reporters at a press conference in Senai.
Three of the locations raided by the authorities found that storekeepers had scattered the boxes of fake infant formula among the containers of the legitimate product, but had continued to sell the counterfeit product for the same price (about $50 per box).
To make the task of tracing the fake product back to its original source a more confounding matter, the authorities discovered that the receipts and invoices being issued by the retail stores had been using a label that included the address for a made-up manufacturing company.
When authorities pressed one of the 50-year-old shop owners about the fake milk found at his location, the man said that he wasn’t aware that the 1.8kg boxes of infant formula were fake.
Despite the fact that there have been no reports of the formula being sold in other parts of the country, Bachok said the ministry would “intensify the raids in other districts” in the hopes of uncovering the source of the fake milk.
The Johor formula scandal has also raised an issue for people living outside of Malaysia’s borders, as neighbouring Singaporeans will often come across to shop for the less expensive milk product.
In Singapore, the average price for formula has shot up 120% over the last decade, which has left a number of families looking for alternative measures to save money.
This trend is so widespread that Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) was forced to warn consumers on Monday that people going overseas to shop should always purchase from reputable sources, no matter how convenient the price may be.
“As a general guide, consumers should purchase food from reputable sources, such as major supermarkets and retailers,” AVA announced in response to the Malaysian formula scandal. “When in doubt of the source or safety of the food product, do not purchase it.”
First offenders found guilty of colluding in the production and distribution of the fake product face a fine of $2,500 for each item made and up to three years behind bars. Second time offenders, however, will face a fine of up to $4,900 and up to five years in prison.