Reconsider ban on 'jelly soil'

KUALA LUMPUR - Distributors are removing "jelly soil" off their shelves yesterday, but have asked the government to reconsider the ban imposed on the product in light of its useful properties.

Distributors of the common soil substitute conceded that the ban was unlikely to adversely affect sales as it involved only a small portion of their businesses.

However, they stressed that the soil alternative was a valuable gardening product.

YMWoo Corporation Sdn Bhd director Stanley Woo said the ban was more likely to affect small retailers and companies which did not cater to the agricultural industry, but instead marketed "jelly soil" as a novelty product.

He said while gel soil substitutes had been sold in the market for two decades, "Seven Colour Crystal Balls" and other similar brands only recently became popular because of their bright colours and decorative properties.

"I think banning the sale of such products is a good move to protect the public as well as reducing the number of businesses who are riding on the "jelly soil" trend," he said, adding that he had informed his customers to recall the product.

However, he hoped the ban would not be extended to other gel soil substitutes which were not used for decorative purposes and are unlikely to pose a danger to children.

"The gels, when mixed with real soil, is a good product for gardeners and farmers as they help to regulate water supply to plants and prevent them from being over-watered."

The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry banned "jelly soils" effective yesterday.

The ban was imposed after seven toddlers had to undergo operations as a result of swallowing the substance.

The "jelly soil", which is around 0.5cm in diameter, expands about six times into the shape of jelly balls when soaked and blocks intestinal walls when swallowed.

They are often mistaken for toys or food because of their bright colours, small size, and malleable texture.

New Trio Products Sdn Bhd marketing manager James Yong said the company's "Rainbow Crystals" products carried a warning label on their packaging to prevent the jelly balls from being eaten or handled by children.

"However, there are many different brands in the market and not all of them carry warning labels."

He said jelly soil was a good soil substitute for indoor plants as they were easier to handle and cleaner than real soil.

"It also helps to reduce mosquito breeding as the water is retained within the jelly."