GEORGE TOWN: The use of animal-based amino acid L-cysteine, which is usually used in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, should be banned by the Health Ministry.
Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said that L-cysteine, which is derived from human and animal sources, such as hair, feathers and hooves, is a taboo for Muslims and vegetarians.
“According to Syariah law, consuming any part of the human body is haram (forbidden) to Muslims.
“Malaysian delicacies such as bread, roti canai, roti jala, puri and pau, which are made from flour, could contain L-cysteine.
“Even though it is also present in a number of other foods, consumers are unaware of the presence of L-cysteine as it is not listed as an ingredient.
“This is because L-cysteine is regarded as a processing aid, which is not required to be labelled under the Food Act,” he said at a press conference held at the association’s office in Jalan Masjid Negeri yesterday.
Mohamed Idris said according to the 11th Schedule of the Food Regulations 1985, the use of L-cysteine was allowed in wheat flour and high-protein flour for bread-making.
“It is also used in the food industry to produce meat flavours in products such as stock cubes,” he added.
He said China was the largest L-cysteine producer in the world, producing about 7,700 tonnes of L-cysteine in 2012, 85% of which was exported to Southeast Asia, the US and Europe.
“According to a report, the major source of L-cysteine today is hog hair.
“It is estimated that hog hair is the source of 90% of the Chinese L-cysteine supply,” he said, adding that other sources were human hair, chicken feathers, duck feathers, cow horns and petroleum by-products.
Mohamed Idris urged the Ministry to impose mandatory labelling of this substance in food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products for consumers to be aware of its existence.
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