Freshly roasted chestnuts can be hard to find in Singapore when they’re mostly bought at grocery stores or online.
A 62-year-old Singaporean man tried to remedy this—albeit illegally—and was fined $27,600 for selling chestnuts over four years.
This wasn’t the first time he’s been convicted of the offence—in 2018, he received a $3,600 fine.
Peddled Roasted Chestnuts Across Island
The 62-year-old unlicensed street hawker, Mr Tan Hee Meng, was slapped with a fine of $27,600 on 3 May, in lieu of 36 days’ jail.
He committed 19 counts of illegal food hawking across Singapore, mainly in the East, from May 2019 to March 2023.
Typically, Mr Tan sold the chestnuts near bus stops in Ubi and Bedok and at various locations along East Coast Road, Onan Road, and Marine Parade Central.
This wasn’t the first time he was caught doing this—back in 2018, Mr Tan was fined $3,600 for the same thing.
The Singaporean Food Agency said that Mr Tan had demonstrated a “clear disregard” for the law by continuing to peddle the chestnuts illegally, despite numerous warnings.
If Mr Tan cannot pay the fine, he will have to serve 36 days in jail.
Why Is This A Problem?
According to the SFA, unregulated street hawking can be risky regarding food safety since the agency cannot guarantee that the food products sold meet their food safety requirements.
They also explained that these vendors are transitory, meaning they don’t stay in one place, so it’s hard to trace and track them down if buyers encounter any problems with the food they bought.
The SFA emphasised that they would take action against illegal hawking, to prevent street vendors from posing risks to their consumers.
Other Illegal Hawking Instances
In 2014, another roasted chestnut seller, known only as Mr Low, reported that he had ten carts confiscated by the National Environment Agency over a period of five years.
He could not afford the fines and hence had to spend a few days in jail—according to him, he had spent a month in jail in total.
However, he was still unwilling to stop doing so, citing his dismal job prospects.
Earlier this year, an 80-year-old woman was found illegally peddling chicken in a Northern Singapore neighbourhood, which she claimed was sourced from an avian factory.
The chickens actually sold well—her regulars even recommended her “stall” to their friends, to the extent that it affected business nearby.
When asked why she had to work so hard, the elderly woman simply replied that she was short on money and had to sell chicken to supplement her scant monthly allowance of $250, provided by her son.
Netizens Unhappy About Mr Tan’s Fine
On the social media platform Reddit, users of the local subreddit r/Singapore expressed discontent about the $27,600 fine Mr Tan was slapped with.
Some said that the fine was too harsh and roasted chestnuts didn’t pose enough of a risk to require further action:
Many compared this case to Karl Liew’s, the son of the Changi Airport Group’s former chairman, who lied blatantly to a judge but was only sentenced to two weeks in jail.
They felt that Mr Tan did not deserve a harsher sentence than Karl Liew and opined that Karl Liew had only managed to escape with such a lenient penalty because of his rich dad.
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