Consumers polled in the state capital said that the proposal was superfluous and disruptive to national unity, with most stating they would not mind using any trolley, provided the supermarket or vendors had packaged the food properly.
Most also viewed the proposal as a product of peninsular Malaysian thinking that was alien to the local culture.
Nik Razie, a 28-year-old photographer, said that having separate trolleys would only create more racial and religious segregation as well as being a waste of effort and money.
“I don't think anyone in Sabah has even considered it. It would only exacerbate any religious or racial issues in west Malaysia,” he said, adding that it was rude to treat someone else's food with disdain.
“Our religion says we cannot touch or eat non-halal meat. So it’s packaged already; then what is the problem? It's not a religious thing, it's a Malay sensitivity thing that only extremists will think of,” he added.
Mohd Izuddin Omar, 40, said that the proposal was from an extremist mentality that was pushing into the bounds of modern society.
He added that it was an idea that would lead to even more harmful religious-based rules, and that it was wrong for followers of any religion to impose their beliefs and sensitivities upon others.
“It isn’t rational thinking to me. If some hardliners feel so strongly about being ‘contaminated’ by non halal products, then just don’t patronise that supermarket,” he said when noting that most shops provide special corners for non-halal products, which are clearly marked and packaged.
Entrepreneur Norfaranina Zaki, 31, said it should be the retailers’ responsibility to ensure that non-halal products, particularly fresh meats, are properly packed to ensure that these do not contaminate the trolleys.
She added that it was unnecessary to implement industry-wide changes to how consumers shop if the concerns are limited to fresh non-halal products.
“I think people are more worried about the fresh pork than anything else. Instead of implementing a whole new mandate, might as well ask the supplier to pack it properly and seal it thickly,” she said.
“Even if I had touched that particular trolley, I can always samak (the Muslims ritual cleansing after touching impure items such as pork),” said the mother of one.
Nadia Riar, 33, from Kota Belud also agreed that the move was unnecessary, given that even Muslims in Kuala Lumpur did not bother to use the halal trolleys that are already available at the NSK chain there.
“I’ve seen Muslims use non-halal trolleys and non-Muslims use halal trolleys. They’re also all stacked together; I don’t think people care about it one way or another,” she said.
The Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry is considering imposing new laws to segregate trolleys at supermarkets nationwide and proposed using trolleys of different colours, such as red for non-halal products.
Its minister, Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin, said the proposal to legislate the segregation of supermarket trolleys is still at the discussion stage and requires comprehensive study due to the expected high costs that supermarket operators will have to bear.
Citing multiple complaints received about shoppers insisting on paying for non-halal products at regular checkout counters, Hamzah also said all supermarket operators have a responsibility to provide segregated check-out counters.
Norhidayah Ali, a cashier at a popular chain hypermarket in the city, said that it has not occurred to her to have separate trolleys or payment counters for Muslim consumers.
She reasoned that it was easy enough to avoid direct contact with non-halal items, and said that she would rather not have such a rule.
“If I had to scan any meats, we usually just use a plastic bag as an extra layer,” she said, pointing to a stack of smaller plastic bags.
Dayang, a cashier working part time at a local chain supermarket, also dismissed the need for a separate halal counter or baskets and was oblivious to the proposal.
“Buat kecoh la. (Just troublesome). Here in Sabah, we don’t think too much about it,” she said.
Patrick Chia, the manager of a local supermarket chain said there was a special halal counter but it served more as a backup for consumers who insisted on it, but it has never happened during all his years working.
“When I first read news of the proposal, I thought this is just going to be an unnecessary financial burden to us. The cashiers here have never complained about it. It is rare to hear a customer complain about anything like this,” he said.