Food processing firm, director fined over expiry dates; biggest case probed by SFA
A food processing company and its director were fined $378,000 in total over offences including not having the expiry dates, or having the wrong ones, on 5,880kg of fish and meat products.
This case is the most extensive one so far investigated by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).
On Nov 20, Far Ocean Sea Products was fined $223,000 while Jordan Quek Ruiming, 36, was ordered to pay a fine of $155,000.
Quek will have to spend 620 days behind bars if he is unable to fork out the amount.
A director of the company since July 1, 2015, Quek is also a director of multiple other firms, including Bakers & Co and JSI Investments.
Before handing down the sentence, District Judge Eugene Teo noted that following an inspection, food products three years past their expiry dates were found on the company’s premises and processed for sale.
Stressing that the scale of the offences was “quite unprecedented”, he said: “Food safety ought to be the primary concern for all food suppliers.”
In October, Far Ocean Sea Products and Quek each pleaded guilty to 30 charges for violating the conditions of the firm’s licences and one charge for illegally using a room at its premises for processing food.
The firm also admitted to one other charge of obstructing officers in their investigations by tampering with a sealed room.
Quek and the company each faced 97 other charges, which were taken into consideration during their sentencing.
Described as a “significant market player” by the prosecution, Far Ocean supplies and sells fish as well as meat products to commercial clients.
They include hotels, supermarkets, food and beverage establishments, and airlines, as well as non-commercial clients in Singapore and overseas.
In earlier proceedings, Deputy Public Prosecutors Niranjan Ranjakunalan, Kayal Pillay and Gladys Lim said that Far Ocean had two licences that allowed it to operate a processing establishment in Fishery Port Road for fish and meat products intended for consumption.
As part of the conditions, it had to ensure every pack of meat or fish product was clearly marked and labelled with its expiry date.
On July 3, 2019, SFA officers inspected Far Ocean’s premises following a complaint made against the firm. They found a large number of products that were not marked and labelled with expiry dates.
Investigations revealed that Far Ocean did not keep a proper inventory of the meat and fish products. It also did not have a proper record of the invoices and production dates.
As a result, there was a large amount of expired meat and fish products on the premises, including those whose expiry had passed by more than three years.
These items were stored together with those that had not reached their expiry dates.
On the second day of inspection on July 4, 2019, SFA officers requested to enter a room – approved to be used only as a dry store – that was locked.
A worker said the room was not used and that the keys were not on the premises.
The officers observed through a gap in the door that there were machines for meat slicing, and pieces of meat and white substances that looked like meat fats in a drainage area. That indicated that the room was used to process meat.
The officers sealed all three doors to the room so that they could inspect it after the keys were handed over to them.
They got the keys the next day and found that the room had been cleaned up, with the machines wrapped with plastic covers.
Investigations revealed that the staff had entered the room through an opening in a false ceiling.
The prosecution said in October that the firm had a longstanding practice of getting staff to clean the room whenever there was an inspection.