SINGAPORE - Kangaroo meat from Australia is the only wild-caught meat product currently allowed in Singapore, said the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).
Other countries including Denmark and Britain have been accredited by SFA to supply game meat – including emu, ostrich and wild boar meat – to Singapore, albeit derived from farmed animals.
“All these products are regulated by the overseas authority to ensure that they meet SFA’s requirements,” said an SFA spokesman. “These products will also be subjected to inspection and testing by SFA.”
The agency was responding to queries from The Straits Times on Singapore’s role in the exotic meat trade. Demand for wild animals, whether for their meat or as exotic pets, from people in cities like Singapore could contribute to the decimation of wildlife in South-east Asia’s forests.
In a report published in September 2021, the United Nations warned that the consumption of meat from animals caught in the wild significantly increases the risk of future zoonotic diseases, or diseases spreading from animal to human populations.
The Covid-19 pandemic likely originated in a wildlife market.
The SFA spokesman said all meat and meat products can carry animal and food-borne diseases, such as avian influenza in poultry, as well as parasites like trichinella in pork. “All meat and meat products, wild or farmed, can only be imported into Singapore from sources that are accredited by SFA, and comply with SFA’s food safety standards,” the spokesman added.
There are two main stages in the food import accreditation process, said SFA: accreditation of the country of export; and of the export farm or establishment.
At the first stage, SFA looks at various factors, including the country’s disease freedom status, veterinary services, legislation, animal disease status and control measures. Meat can come only from sources that are free of diseases of public health significance, as well as animal diseases that can impact market access of food manufactured in Singapore. For example, eggs and poultry can be imported only from bird-flu-free areas, said the SFA spokesman.
Before a farm or establishment is accredited to supply meat to Singapore, it must submit information on how it ensures that products exported to Singapore meet SFA’s requirements and standards. “This includes information such as its animal health and food safety management programmes, biosecurity/hygiene and sanitation procedures, and its traceability systems,” said the SFA spokesman.
Imported food from accredited sources is also subjected to SFA’s inspection at the points of import and testing. Meat and meat products that do not meet SFA’s food safety standards will not be allowed to be sold here.
SFA said it detected over 80 cases of illegally imported meat such as chicken, pork, duck and beef between 2019 and 2021. “These illegally imported products were brought in without valid import permits,” said the SFA spokesman.
But there were no instances of severe disease-causing pathogens detected in imported meat and meat products during this period, he added.
As for the import of wild animals as exotic pets, the National Parks Board (NParks) said it regulates and reviews the list of animals allowed for sale at pet shops and to be kept as pets. Currently, most wild birds and fish, except for certain species including protected ones, are allowed as pets in Singapore. Various frog and insect species are also on NParks’ list of approved species.
Dr Adrian Loo, NParks’ group director of wildlife management, said the suitability of wildlife species for keeping as pets in Singapore is based on several factors, including the potential impact on animal and public health, animal welfare, the environment and public safety, as well as the animals’ status under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
Cites is an international treaty that regulates the cross-border sale of endangered species.
“NParks is aware that wildlife species may be brought in illegally, and live animals most commonly found in recent years include tarantulas, geckos and star tortoises,” said Dr Loo.
For example, in 2021, NParks seized 195 live animals, including species such as the Burmese python and green iguana.
Dr Loo said the Singapore Government takes a zero-tolerance stance on illegal wildlife trade, and that NParks is working with partner agencies to reduce the trafficking of animals through efforts such as checks at border checkpoints, as well as regulating and monitoring physical and online marketplaces.
He said people who are keen on purchasing pets should do so through licensed pet shops or farms, to ensure that the health and welfare of the animal and the proper licensing requirements and records are taken care of.