Following a report from a customer alleging the product contained pork, Saudi authorities in Mecca seized a large quantity of the noodles and began an investigation earlier this month. The noodles in question have not been formally named, but some media outlets identified them as Nissin Cup Noodles from Japan.
Fines and prosecution
Isa Al-Isa, a spokesman for Saudi Customs, said the noodles had now been confiscated, and the importer, which has also not been identified, fined three times the value of the shipment. The company will also be subject to increased monitoring and inspection in the future, he added.
The importer, along with four wholesale distributors, have also been referred to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution. They will face trial for commercial fraud, breaching regulations and distributing unhygienic and unlicensed food products.
After initial reports suggesting the noodles had been smuggled into the kingdom, an investigation by Saudi Customs concluded the importer had in fact breached a promise not to distribute the product until given final clearance. Al-Isa said the firm had been asked to wait until authorities had completed tests, but it started selling the product anyway.
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) said it was aware of the product and it had previously denied permission for its sale in Saudi Arabia due to its pork content, along with banned colourings and gelatine of an unknown source. The SFDA may also impose its own sanctions on the firm, in addition to penalties from other authorities.
As the pork-laden noodles were on sale to the public, the importer could face private lawsuits from customers who bought and consumed the product. Lawyers quoted in Saudi media said anyone who ate the noodles believing they were Halal would be in a position to sue the company for endangering their health.
Following reporting of the incident in Saudi Arabia, authorities in Qatar said they were also investigating whether the noodles had made it on to retailers’ shelves there. The Qatar Ministry of Economy and Commerce tweeted pictures of one of its inspectors examining noodles in a supermarket, although no recall notices were subsequently issued.