KUCHING - A supermarket here has been directed to remove products with anti-palm oil labelling from its shelves following complaints from the oil palm industry.
The state Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry has instructed the supermarket to stop selling the products after inspecting the premises on Wednesday.
It said the products were imported from Australia and were believed to have entered the market here about a week ago.
The labels, which showed an orang utan urging shoppers to buy palm oil-free products to help save the animals, earned the ire of Land Development Minister Tan Sri James Masing when they were brought to his attention on Tuesday.
He criticised the "unfriendly" labelling for being unfair to Malaysia's palm oil industry and as being based on incorrect facts.
"Our orang utan habitats are not where the oil palm plantations are. The areas where orang utans are found have been declared as wildlife sanctuaries and we don't disturb them.
"In Sarawak, we have one million hectares of totally protected areas and out of this 22 per cent or 218,000ha are for orang utans. In fact, in Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary the population of orang utans has increased to 5,000 now," he said.
Masing also said anti-palm oil campaigns were due to economic rivalry with other vegetable oils like soya bean, sunflower and rapeseed.
"It's an economic issue camouflaged as an environmental issue. The campaigners are using the orang utan as an excuse to undermine palm oil and promote competitors," he said.
He advised the supermarket to take the products off its shelves as such smear campaigns were not healthy for the palm oil industry. "I do not expect supermarkets in Malaysia to be in cahoots with this kind of thing. I hope the supermarket will be more responsible. Don't sell out the country's interest for a quick profit," he added.