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S'pore may allow import of roast meat from Hong Kong

Singaporeans who hunger for Hong Kong's roast meat, especially its famed roast goose, may soon have their fill of it without having to visit the territory.

The Singapore Government is considering easing the import rules on cooked meat products, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat yesterday.

The rules are being reviewed by Singapore's Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP) and its Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), he said in a Facebook post.

But the authorities need time "to ensure food safety and other health considerations are taken care of", he told reporters on the sidelines of his working visit to Hong Kong.

More importantly, the review reflects the approach Singapore takes towards its rules and regulations, said Mr Chee, who is also Senior Minister of State for Education.

"We work closely with our businesses and our stakeholders to get feedback.

"After getting the feedback, we review our rules, starting from first principles, looking at a more risk-based approach and seeing what we can do to support innovation and trying out new ideas," he added.

Mr Eugene Toh, director of the Pro-Enterprise Division in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said the review is part of broader efforts by the PEP and regulatory agencies "to ensure that our rules and regulations are agile and pro-business".

The review includes getting feedback from stakeholders and it was in fact feedback that led to the authorities looking into the rules on cooked meat products.

AVA rules allow the import of poultry, including cooked or processed food containing poultry, from only 14 certified bird flu-free economies.

They include Argentina, Canada and New Zealand but Hong Kong is not among them.

Each traveller can bring into Singapore only up to 5kg of meat products from the approved places.

Those who flout the rules may get a warning, a composition fine or be prosecuted in very extreme cases.

Lawyer Sunil Sudheesan, 39, who says he travels often to Hong Kong to satisfy his roast meat cravings, believes "foodies would rejoice".

"Hong Kong goose is known by us who love roast meat," he added.

Food connoisseur Kevin Tan, 44, said Hong Kong roast goose "is a rare luxury" for Singaporeans. He added: "Restaurants in Singapore can't import and cook geese from southern China, which is the breed commonly used for roast goose."

AVA allows only countries, establishments and farms it has accredited to export meat and meat products to Singapore.

The reason is these products could carry animal and food-borne disease, it said.

Also, imported food from accredited sources must meet specified requirements, and is subject to routine surveillance, inspection and sampling.

During his trip, Mr Chee also met Singaporeans living and working in Hong Kong in a closed-door session to answer their questions and discuss their concerns.