Why Food Vendors in Malaysia Have to Rename Hot Dogs

Government tells Auntie Anne's that 'dog' can't be in product name if it wants halal certification
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2016 12:36 PM CDT
'Hot Dogs' Now 'Not Dogs' in Malaysia?
In this Tuesday photo, "Pretzel Dogs" are on display at an Auntie Anne's at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.   (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

What's in a name? In Malaysia, a heck of a lot when it comes to hot dogs. Per the BBC, the country's Islamic Development Department has told food vendors in the mostly Muslim nation that if they want a halal designation (meaning food items have been given the green light for consumption by Muslims), they can't use the word "dogs" in the meat product's name—because the name might lead to "confusion." Sirajuddin Suhaimee, the department's director, elaborates: "In Islam, dogs are considered unclean, and the name cannot be related to halal certification." And that's even though the frankfurters themselves have already been given the OK as a halal item. "Even though the food sold at the outlet is halal, an inappropriate name is not suitable," the lead activist for the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association says, per Free Malaysia Today.

The Auntie Anne's pretzel franchise is one of the first outlets to be affected by the new rule, as one of its items is called a "Pretzel Dog" (it would be better to call it a "Pretzel Sausage," Suhaimee notes, per the BBC). It's not the first time wording has messed up a snack or drink's halal standing in Malaysia: Time notes that A&W root beer, as well as ginger beer, have been banned since 2009 because of the word "beer" (alcohol is forbidden in Islam)—unless they're rebranded, such as when A&W renamed its drink "A&W Sarsaparilla," FMT reports. One person who thinks the mandate is ridiculous: Nazri Aziz, Malaysia's tourism and culture minister, who told reporters Wednesday the ruling makes the country look "stupid and backward," per FMT. "In fact, I think I want to eat a hot dog now," he said. (More important: Is a hot dog a sandwich?)

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