Food manufacturer tampered with expiry labels

SINGAPORE - A food manufacturer has been fined for tampering with the expiry labels on its sweets.

Kee Wee Hup Kee, which makes a brand called Ego that is popular with children, extended the use-by date of one of its products - allegedly by up to several years.

The local company's ruse was exposed after the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), acting on feedback, carried out an inspection in January.

It found that the use-by dates on packs of an imported product called Jelly Sweet were being extended when the candy was repackaged in smaller sizes. The company was fined $900 and all the items that had been tampered with were destroyed. Packs of Jelly Sweet are still being sold in provision shops and supermarkets. The AVA said these had not been affected and were safe to eat.

A spokesman added that it did not alert the public as there was no health risk.

When contacted, Kee Wee Hup Kee declined to comment.

This is the first time in three years that a local food establishment has been found to have altered use-by dates.

During this period, AVA took action against 12 importers for tampering with the use-by dates of food products, such as snacks, confectionary, and beverages.

All affected products were recalled and destroyed, said the AVA spokesman. The importers were fined between $300 and $1,000.

The agency also conducts regular inspections at AVA-licensed food establishments and investigates feedback it receives.

Consumers Association of Singapore executive director Seah Seng Choon said the public should have been alerted to the issue.

"It concerns all consumers and even though all affected products were recalled and destroyed, consumers would have wanted to know which product was affected for their own knowledge," he said.

The association has not received any complaints involving out-of-date food for the past three years.

But it said it will not hesitate to publicly blacklist repeat offenders who fail to ensure their items are properly labelled.

"Consumers who have inadvertently purchased expired or improperly labelled food products should quickly inform the retailer concerned so that the sale of such products to other buyers can be prevented," said Mr Seah.

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