SINGAPORE: Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, said he is shocked by reports that two meat sellers were caught for passing beef off as mutton.
Writing on his Facebook page, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim said what they did was unethical and immoral.
Dr Yaacob said the meat sellers should feel the full brunt of the law.
This week, meat supplier company Basha Meat Supplier Pte Ltd was fined S$4,000.
Beef was found in the minced mutton sold at the shop.
Last month, another meat supplier owner Nabisha Begum had her licence revoked and fined the maximum S$5,000.
Dr Yaacob noted that Indian restaurants have been very careful in not serving beef or pork to respect the diverse religious practices within the Indian community and Singaporeans in general.
Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister—in—charge of Muslim Affairs, added that the restaurants would even ensure that the meat is halal.
He said the offenders should realise the effect of their actions and be ashamed of themselves.
Dr Yaacob said he is confident this episode is isolated and that it does not in any way dampen the upcoming Deepavali festivities.
In his Facebook page, Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said it is good to see that action is being taken, referring to comments by Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan on Wednesday that penalties for such offences may be enhanced.
Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Law Minister, said that the law will be changed to make the penalties even tougher when such deception is carried out.
Mr Shanmugam described the action by the meat sellers as being "quite unacceptable" as there are many people who do not eat beef for religious reasons.
Mr Shanmugam said some restaurant owners had raised the issue with him some months ago about meat sellers passing beef off as mutton. Mr Shanmugam said he then passed this information on to the agencies.
In an email response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, the Agri—food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and National Environment Agency (NEA) stressed that retailers are responsible for ensuring that the food sold to the public are safe for consumption and are of the nature stated and paid for by the customer.
NEA will issue advisory letters to all existing and new licensees who sell raw meat (including supermarkets, market produce shops and market stalls) to warn them of the strict penalties they will face for selling adulterated meat.
NEA also advises food retail operators to send their meat samples to accredited laboratories for testing if they suspect the meat supplied has been adulterated.
NEA said a possible red flag is when suppliers charge unrealistically lower prices.
Members of the public are advised to report alleged incidents to NEA for investigation. NEA will verify such alleged incidents by purchasing meat from the said supplier for testing.
AVA said it strictly regulates the import of meat products for food safety.
As part of AVA’s routine surveillance, imported meat products are regularly monitored and checked for compliance with its safety standards and requirements.
On top of checking for food safety, AVA also ensures that consignments are correctly declared (e.g. quantity, source and type of meat). Meat products may also be sampled to verify the meat type.
In addition, AVA—licensed meat cutting establishments are required to take precautions to avoid any mixing of meat from different animal species during preparation.
These establishments are routinely inspected by AVA to ensure proper hygiene and sanitation practice. Meat samples may also be taken for authenticity testing.
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