SINGAPORE: A man was fined S$3,500 on Wednesday (Mar 3) for bottling tap water that he drew from a toilet to sell as mineral water when he had no licence for such a business.

Richard Lim Lian Chye, 70, pleaded guilty to one charge under the Sale of Food Act for carrying on a non-retail food business without a valid licence, by producing 285 litres of bottled water for sale.

The court heard that Lim ran a company selling bottled water called Drinkstar Enterprise at 55 Serangoon North Avenue 4.

The firm sold bottled water imported from Malaysia but began to have problems importing the water in 2018. Lim began filling up bottles with tap water, drawn from a hose via a toilet in the company’s premises.

When the illegal mineral water production came to the attention of the authorities, they inspected Lim’s firm in December 2019 and ordered the company to stop its activities and recall the sold bottles.

Fifteen 19-litre water bottles were recalled and disposed of, said the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) in a separate media release.

The prosecutor asked for a fine of S$3,000 to S$4,000, saying that operating an unauthorised and unlicensed bottling business is a serious offence, and selling tap water for commercial gain to fulfil a company’s outstanding sales contracts is “very serious”.

Bottled water must be from approved companies that have in place proper assurance programmes, with health certificates, relevant permits and labels in place, said the Singapore Food Agency prosecutor.

“Using water from the toilet via a hose is extremely unhygienic and poses a potential health risk to unwary customers,” he added.

Lim, who was not represented, said he had given up the business and is not working.

“Now I’m not working, so I hope that your honour, you can give me a more lenient fine because … it will be a burden to me now,” he said. 

He added that he had committed the crime because of his outstanding sales contracts and said he had filtered the tap water.

“The customers expected a bottle of mineral water and did not expect to have water that is sourced from a tap,” said District Judge Adam Nakhoda, adding that there was “obviously a commercial element”.

For carrying on a non-retail food business without a licence, Lim could have been fined up to S$5,000. Subsequent convictions can draw double the maximum fine and a jail term of up to three months.

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