SINGAPORE — A man was fined $3,500 on Wednesday (3 March) after he sold bottled water filled from a toilet tap.
Richard Lim Lian Chye, a 70-year-old Singaporean, pleaded guilty to one count of carrying on a non-retail food business under the Sale of Food Act, by producing 15 bottles of water containing 19 litres of water for sale without a valid license on or before 18 December 2019 at Drinkstar Enterprise.
Lim told the court he has since sold the company at 55 Serangoon North Avenue 4 to a client in the United States and is no longer employed.
Drinkstar previously imported bottled water from Malaysia but encountered problems doing so in 2018. As such, to fulfil its contract commitments, Lim began filling up bottles with tap water drawn from a hose via the toilet of the company and sold these to customers.
Lim had no Singapore Food Agency (SFA) license to carry on the retail food business.
According to a press release issued by the SFA, following feedback from a member of the public, officers from the SFA conducted an inspection on 18 December 2019 at the premises of Drinkstar and found several empty 19-litre water bottles and water dispensers.
Lim was ordered to stop and to recall the 15 bottles of water, which were disposed off in January 2020.
An SFA prosecutor sought a fine of between $3,000 and $4,000, stating that operating unauthorised bottling business was a serious offence. Lim’s action of selling such bottled water using tap water for his commercial gain to fulfil an outstanding sales contract was a “very serious” offence, the prosecutor said.
He added that bottled water must be from approved establishments with proper assurance programmes and health certificates, with their laboratory reports submitted to the SFA and the bottles properly labelled to ensure that water was bottled under sanitary conditions.
The hose that Lim had used was extremely unhygienic and was a potential health risk to unwary customers, the prosecutor said.
Mitigating in person, Lim said that he had given up his business and asked for a lenient fine, as the penalty would be a “burden” to him now.
When the prosecutor reiterated that such a business must be licensed under the SFA, Lim replied, “Yes I agree with that but… I have filtered the water.”
District Judge Adam Nakhoda said that it was “quite clear” that an offence had been committed and that customers would not have expected water sourced from a tap. He noted the commercial element involved and agreed with the prosecutor’s proposed fine.
Offenders who illegally bottle water may be fined up to $5,000 and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, may be fined up to $10,000, or jailed up to three months, or both.
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