Ronna Nirmala & Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Calls to bolster the depleting supply of beef in Jakarta have increased after the recent discovery of a meat-processing plant that mixed pork into beef meatballs sparked outrage among consumers.
Pork is much cheaper than beef in Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population. In Islam, pork is considered haram, or forbidden.
Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo said on Sunday that with beef prices continuing to soar, there was a risk that more butcher shops and meat-processing plants would try to pass of pork as beef. Random inspections of markets have revealed that such practices are widespread, he added.
“Everyday we discover [pork mixed with beef] in our raids,” Joko said.
Jakarta Police arrested four people on Wednesday for running a meat-processing factory that allegedly mixed pork into what was supposed to be pure beef meatballs.
The arrest was made during a joint raid of the factory near Cipete Market in South Jakarta by police and the livestock, agriculture and fisheries unit of the South Jakarta municipal administration.
The factory supplied meatballs to bakso vendors in Jakarta.
Police detained the owner of the factory, Eka Prayitno, and three of his employees and seized 50 kilograms of pork and 15 kilograms of processed meat containing beef and pork from the factory.
Police also questioned two meatball sellers who were seen at the location.
The suspects are charged with violating a city bylaw on meat trade and slaughter monitoring, and face up to three months in jail and Rp 5 million ($520) in fines.
But Joko said conducting more raids without addressing the diminishing beef supply would not stop people from selling pork as beef.
“The most important thing is how to [sustain] a sufficient supply of beef. If it’s insufficient, then the practice will continue,” he said, adding that his office would start working on a solution to the issue.
Drajad Wibowo, deputy chairman of the Islamic-based National Mandate Party (PAN), blamed the pork fiasco on the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) for failing to confirm whether food product that it stamped with a halal label were indeed fit for consumption by Muslims.
He said is some cases, beef products with pork had been given a halal label.
“The MUI has been shifting the blame on others, arguing that [the vendors and companies] used an expired label, and so on,” he said.
“Don’t blame this on others. The MUI should examine its own performance and determine why this was allowed to happen. Consumers are paying for the [halal] certification, which is included in the price set by the producers. So it’s the MUI’s responsibility to ensure that there is no misuse [of the certificates].”