Unscrupulous businessmen are cheating unsuspecting rural folk by selling them smuggled foreign-made toothpaste with fake labels of a popular local brand.
The toothpaste has been found to be on sale in the popular tourist town of Batu Niah in Niah National Park, a rural district 120km south of Miri.
The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry uncovered the scam recently following public complaints.
The Ministry’s Miri office chief Balwant Singh said the ministry’s officials had seized a sizeable number of the toothpaste from several retail centres in Batu Niah.
“We have sent the toothpaste to the Chemistry Department for testing. We are worried it may contain harmful substances.
“The toothpaste may have originated in China and Indonesia and illegally brought into Sarawak,” he said in a recent interview.
The ministry had, in July this year, uncovered similar cases of illegally-imported foreign-made toothpaste using the brand name of a Malaysian dental product manufacturer.
“Our enforcement units raided some commercial outlets after receiving complaints from the management of the manufacturer in Kuala Lumpur.
“We have so far seized 1,600 tubes of the toothpaste in Miri. We found that those selling the toothpaste had gone to rural areas to escape detection.
It was difficult to identify the genuine toothpaste, said Balwant Singh.
“The packaging looks almost exactly the same. Consumers can be easily deceived. Only those trained in recognising batch numbers and other details could tell the difference,” he explained.
The ministry viewed such offences seriously not only because of business discrepancies, but also because of health concerns, he said.
Under the Trade Description Act 1972, offenders could be jailed up to three years or fined up to RM100,000 or both upon conviction, he added.