Food safety, certification programmes, animal safety and disease

Livestock legislation

List the main applicable enacted legislation for primary processors of live animals.

The primary applicable legislation is the Animals Act 1953 and the regulations and rules made thereunder. The Animals Act provides rules in relation to, among other things:

  • preventing the introduction or spread of diseases of animals and birds;
  • the control of the movement and slaughter of animals and birds; and
  • measures pertaining to the general welfare, conservation and improvement of animals and birds.

Rules made under the Animals Act, such as the Animal Rules 1962 and the Animals (Control of Slaughter Rules) 2009, provide detailed requirements in relation to the import, export and quarantine of animals and birds and in relation to the slaughter of animals respectively.

The main distinction between meat for domestic consumption and meat for export lies in the additional licensing and permit requirements applicable in relation to meat for export under the MAQIS Act (the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services Act 2011), administered by the Department of Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services and under the Customs (Prohibition of Exports) Order 2017 issued pursuant to the Customs Act 1967.

Further, as Malaysia is a Muslim-dominated country, halal certification must be obtained from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia and the Islamic Religious Council in the respective states if a supplier wishes to describe products as halal or to indicate that the products can be consumed by those of Islamic faith. Under the Trade Descriptions (Certification and Marking of Halal) Order 2011, the halal certification may be obtained by complying with the standards, procedures and circulars enforced by the specific competent authorities.

Food safety regime

Describe food safety regulations for meat and poultry products, and all other food products in your jurisdiction.

The food safety regime centres around the Food Act 1983 and the Food Hygiene Regulations 2009 made thereunder. The provisions of the Food Act are intended to protect the public against health hazards and fraud in the preparation, sale and use of food. The Food Hygiene Regulations set out a framework for the registration of food premises by the Ministry of Health and the conduct and maintenance of food premises, including requiring the proprietor, owner or occupier to provide a food safety assurance programme and food traceability system, as well as requiring food handlers to undergo appropriate training.

Safety enforcement

What enforcement can take place in relation to food safety? What penalties may apply?

The Food Act and the Food Hygiene Regulations generally impose penal sanctions such as fines or imprisonment in relation to the offences prescribed thereunder. In addition, upon the conviction of any person of an offence under the Food Act, the court may, in addition to any other penalty that it may lawfully impose, cancel any licence issued to the person under the Food Act or Regulations.

Product certification

Describe any certification programmes and regulations for genetically modified foods and organic foods.

The Department of Agriculture has developed the Malaysian Organic Scheme to certify organic farms that meet the requirements of Malaysian Standard MS 1529 relating to the production, processing, labelling and marketing of plant-based organically produced foods. The Food Regulations 1985 issued pursuant to the Food Act provide that no label that describes any food may include the word ‘organic’, ‘biological’, ‘ecological’, ‘biodynamic’ or any other words of the same significance unless the food conforms to the requirements specified in MS1529.

The Organic Malaysia Mark Scheme is a label scheme operated by Organic Alliance Malaysia (OAM) Bhd in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture. The OAM mark is for use by operators on certified organic products (in respect of domestically produced and imported products) that have been approved by the Department of Agriculture as meeting the requirements of Malaysian organic labelling requirements.

Insofar as genetically modified (GM) foods are concerned, the Biosafety Act 2007 prescribes import approval requirements in respect of ‘living modified organisms’ (defined to mean any living organisms that possess a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology). This categorisation would apply in respect of certain types of GM food or food materials.

The Food Regulations 1985 provide that no person may import, prepare or advertise for sale or sell any food and food ingredients obtained through modern biotechnology (which would include GM foods) without the prior written approval of the Deputy Director General of Health (Public Health) of the Ministry of Health. Detailed rules are prescribed in the Guidelines on Labelling of Foods and Food Ingredients Obtained Through Modern Biotechnology, issued by the Ministry of Health.

With regard to differentiated products, a halal certification may be obtained to certify foods as halal (or permitted to be consumed by Muslims) from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia.

Food labelling requirements

What are the food labelling requirements, including the applicable enacted legislation, enforcement and penalties?

The Food Regulations 1985 set out detailed rules in relation to labelling and packaging of foods. The specific standards and particular labelling requirements for different types of food products are set out in the Food Regulations. Various guidelines have also been issued by the Ministry of Health that are intended to provide guidance to players in the food industry in relation to the rules prescribed under the Food Act and the Food Regulations, including:

  • the General Food Labelling Guidelines;
  • the Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims;
  • the Guidelines on Labelling of Food Additives and Artificial Sweetening Substances; and
  • the Guidelines for the Labelling of Food Ingredients that May Cause Hypersensitivity.

The Food Act provides that where a standard has been prescribed for any food, any person who prepares, packages, labels or advertises any food that does not comply with that standard, in such a manner that it is likely to be mistaken for food of the prescribed standard commits an offence.

It is also an offence for any person who prepares, packages, labels or sells any food to do so in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive with regard to its:

  • character;
  • nature;
  • value;
  • substance;
  • quality;
  • composition;
  • merit or safety;
  • strength;
  • purity;
  • weight;
  • origin;
  • age;
  • proportion; or
  • compliance with regulations made under the Food Act.

Persons who have committed such offences are liable on conviction to imprisonment for a maximum term of three years, a fine, or both.

In addition, the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Grading, Packaging and Labelling of Agricultural Produce) Regulations 2008 (the FAMA Regulations) prescribe grading, packaging and labelling standards in respect of certain types of agricultural produce in its raw form.

Food animal legislation

List the main applicable enacted legislation regarding health of food animals, including transportation and disease outbreak and management.

The Animals Act contains provisions intended to prevent the introduction or spread of disease in animals and birds.

The Animals Act provides wide-ranging powers for ‘veterinary authorities’ (ie, the Director General of Veterinary Services, other veterinary officers or persons appointed by the Director) to:

  • examine animals or birds suspected of disease;
  • order the immediate isolation or destruction of any diseased animal or bird;
  • treat any diseased animal or bird or those that may have been exposed to infection;
  • order the destruction of stables, sheds, pens, cages and other articles that have been occupied or used in connection with an infected animal or bird; and
  • order the disinfection of the body and clothing of any person and of vehicles that have been or may have been in contact with a diseased animal or bird.

In addition, every owner or person in charge of any animal or bird infected with, or reasonably suspected to be infected with, disease, or to have died of disease, is under a duty to immediately make a report to a veterinary authority or to the nearest police station. There are also strict requirements prescribed in relation to the disposal of dead animals or birds that have died from disease.

Furthermore, the chief minister of a state may issue an order declaring a state, or part of a state, to be an infected area, a disease control area or a disease eradication area for the specified disease, pursuant to which he or she may, among other things:

  • prohibit either absolutely or conditionally the moving into or out of the area of any animal, bird or carcass;
  • order the slaughter of any animal or bird within the area; and
  • prohibit the rearing or keeping of any such animal or bird.

The Animals Act also provides specific power to the chief minister of a state to order the prohibition of movement or slaughter of any cattle or swine for a specified period except under licence.

Animal movement restrictions

What are the restrictions on the movement of animals within your country?

Under the Animals Act, the Chief Minister of a state may order the prohibition of movement or slaughter of any cattle or swine for a specified period, except those that are permitted under the terms and conditions of the licence.

The Animals Act also allows a veterinary authority to order that an animal, bird or carcass that is suspected of disease to be delivered to him or her at a specified place and time, and no such animal, bird or carcass can be removed from such place without his or her permission.

Slaughter legislation

Where would one find the regulations related to livestock slaughtering?

The Abattoirs (Privatisation) Act 1993 (the Abattoirs Act) provides a licensing framework in relation to the operation of privately owned abattoirs or slaughterhouses for oxen, buffalo, goats, sheep and pigs. The Abattoirs Act imposes duties on licensed operators to meet performance standards prescribed by the Director General of Veterinary Services, and to have due regard to the efficiency, economy and safety of operations in respect of the services provided by it, and to ensure that operations are carried out under hygienic conditions. The Director General of Veterinary Services is empowered under the Abattoirs Act to exercise regulatory functions in respect of the provision of abattoir services and the running of abattoir facilities by a licensed operator.

The Animals (Control of Slaughter) Rules 2009 provide that, except as set out in the Rules, no person may slaughter any animal except at an approved abattoir (ie, an abattoir operated by the Department of Veterinary Services) or a licensed abattoir. Any person who slaughters or causes to be slaughtered or wishes to use any of the services of an abattoir must be the registered user of the abattoir. Applications for registration must be made to the veterinary authority.

The Meat Inspection Rules prescribed pursuant to the Animals Act provide, among other things, for the inspection of slaughterhouses and livestock, carcasses, portions and products thereof by veterinary authorities and prescribes the sanitary requirements of slaughterhouses, and labelling and marking requirements for meat leaving a slaughterhouse.

Pest control requirements

Outline the regulatory regime for pesticides in your jurisdiction.

The Pesticides Act 1974 sets out a licensing regime in relation to the importation, manufacture, sale and storage of pesticides overseen by the Pesticides Board established under the Pesticides Act 1974.

The Plant Quarantine Act 1976 covers the control, prevention and eradication of agricultural pests, noxious plants and plant diseases.

Upon the appearance of a dangerous pest (as may be prescribed by the relevant minister), or any plant diseased by a dangerous pest, owners or occupiers of the land are under duties to inform the Director General of Agriculture and to render assistance to inspecting officers in relation to the destruction of such dangerous pests or diseased plants.

The chief minister of a state in Peninsular Malaysia, or the state minister charged with the responsibility for agriculture of Sabah or Sarawak, may also issue an order in relation to the eradication, destruction or treatment of any diseased plant that is affected by a dangerous pest, or of any plant liable to become so affected, including, among other things, requiring the owner or occupier of the land to clear the land entirely of such plants.

Similarly, an owner or occupier of land is required to completely and effectually destroy any noxious plants found growing in or on any land.