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Saturday, 6 January, 2001, 09:34 GMT
Pork scandal hits Indonesia
Market selling Ajinomoto MSG
Ajinomoto MSG is one of the country's most popular
Indonesia has moved quickly to contain a scandal unleashed by the discovery that pork products were used in the production of one of the country's most popular flavour enhancers.

Police in East Java have detained four executives of a company which admitted using a pork extract to make monosodium glutamate (MSG), in violation of Muslim dietary rules.

Up to a hundred police are reported to have surrounded the PT Ajinomoto Indonesia factory at Mojokarto, near Surabaya, to protect it from possible attacks by angry Muslims.

About 80% of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslims, forbidden to eat pork by religious law.

Fines or prison possible

The company could be prosecuted for fraud, with officials facing the possibility of fines or prison terms of up to five years.

Ajinomoto factory
Police guarded the factory in case of attack
The quality control manager, production manager, and factory manager, all Indonesians, have been detained and are being interrogated, as is the company's Japanese technical manager.

Up to 3,000 tonnes of the product have been recalled for possible distribution in non-Muslim countries, and PT Ajinomoto has apologised to its customers.

Ajinomoto is among the country's most popular brands of MSG.

Religious ruling

The nation's highest religious council, the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) revealed last week that PT Ajinomoto's MSG may have been contaminated and called on the government to take action.

The company, a subsidiary of a Japanese firm, later admitted that it had replaced a beef derivative with the pork derivative bactosoytone in the production process for economic reasons.

The company said it used bactosoytone as a medium to cultivate bacteria that produces enzymes needed to make its MSG.

It said the pork product was only a catalyst and was not present in the flavour enhancer itself.

It has promised to replace the pork derivative with one made from soy.

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See also:

04 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Islamic law for Aceh
14 Nov 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka call for pork insulin ban
06 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Muslims threaten jihad in Indonesia
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