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Under 18? You can now buy food products containing alcohol

SINGAPORE — Many consumers welcomed the freedom to buy, and eat in public, ice-cream and other food containing alcohol after 10.30pm from last Friday (Jan 18).

Under 18? You can now buy food products containing alcohol

Some netizens wondered if food manufacturers would now increase the alcohol content of their products — perhaps to increase their appeal to youngsters below the legal drinking age.

SINGAPORE — Many consumers welcomed the freedom to buy, and eat in public, ice-cream and other food containing alcohol after 10.30pm from last Friday (Jan 18).

But few are aware that the tweak to liquor control rules also meant something else: That those below 18 years old can now legally buy food products (excluding beverages) containing more than 0.5 per cent alcohol at all times of the day.

Here’s how the change came about:

  • The definition of “liquor” under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act includes products containing more than 0.5 per cent alcohol by mass or volume.

  • Under liquor licensing laws, licensees are not allowed to supply liquor to anyone below 18.

  • From last Friday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) exempted all food products containing alcohol, except for beverages, from licensing requirements under the Liquor Control Act.

  • This means that not only can the food products containing alcohol be sold and consumed after 10.30pm in public places, they can now be sold to those below age 18, who may also consume them.

TODAY understands that when the rule banning those below 18 from buying food products containing alcohol was in place, the authorities did not proactively enforce it.

The MHA said beverages continue to be regulated because they pose a significantly higher risk of abuse, but heard feedback from the public and businesses that consumers are unlikely to abuse certain products containing alcohol.

In the wake of its announcement, some netizens wondered if food manufacturers would now increase the alcohol content of their products — perhaps to increase their appeal to youngsters below the legal drinking age.

Some parents were not aware of the rule that previously banned children under 18 from buying food containing alcohol. While not all were in favour of the rule change, they were not overly perturbed.

Mdm J Tang, a mother of three children below 18, told TODAY that she allows her children to consume food such as rum-and-raisin ice-cream to “have a taste”, but felt they should not be allowed to buy alcohol-based products.

“Children are easily influenced and adults will take advantage of this by manipulating children to buy these products,” said the 48-year-old homemaker.

Mdm Yvonne Ong, 51, said alcoholic food products do not pose much harm and felt that the previous rule was too strict. “If they (underaged children) really want to, it is easier to ask a friend to buy a bottle for them than to try and get drunk on a tub of ice-cream,” said the banking executive, who has a 17-year-old daughter.

“As long as they are not addicted (to alcohol), it is okay. It does not worry me,” said Mdm Ong.

Marketing manager Felicia Goh, 39, said her two children, aged eight and 10, are presently too young to consume food containing alcohol.

‘PEOPLE CAN ONLY EAT SO MUCH’

The MHA said it would monitor the ground situation with the police and “periodically review and update the legislation as required”.

Businesses selling food infused with alcohol welcomed the change to liquor control rules. Practical constraints usually make it unfeasible to go overboard with the alcohol, they said.

Mr David Yim, the founder of ice-cream seller Udders, said going beyond the amount of alcohol his company already uses for some flavours will “cause the ice-cream to not freeze and form”.

Udders retails about 28 flavours at its outlets at any one time, of which seven contain 2 to 4 per cent alcohol. They include flavours such as Baileys and Bourbon, Orange Liqueur Dark Chocolate and Wineberries, said Udders founder Wong Peck Lin.

In comparison, a can of Tiger beer has 5 per cent alcohol by volume.

People “can only eat so much” of food such as ice-cream, drunken prawns or liqueur chocolate, Ms Wong pointed out.

“So it is a natural inhibitor against getting drunk, unlike (with) liquids. Alcohol should be seen as a flavour enhancer for food,” she said.

Ms Imee Francisco, manager of The Tiramisu Hero, said the café does not plan to introduce versions of the dessert with higher alcohol content for now.

She could not provide the exact amount of alcohol the café uses for its tiramisu, but said it was “very little”.

Added Ms Francisco, 25: “Most parents will stop their children from consuming our tiramisus if they are too young to handle the alcohol content.”

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