New Tourism Minister Alphons Kannanthanam jokingly told reporters that foreigners coming to India could “eat beef in their own countries”, soon after he had reassured states like Kerala and Goa that the government would not foist its beliefs about food on anyone.

On Thursday, on the sidelines of a convention of the Indian Association of Tour Operators in Bhubaneshwar, he had been asked if restrictions on eating beef would affect tourism and the hospitality industry in some states, The Indian Express reported. The Bharatiya Janata Party minister also quipped, “I am not the food minister to decide on it [beef consumption]”, according to ANI.

Earlier in the week he had said his party did not “mandate that beef cannot be eaten.” “We don’t dictate food habits in any place. It is for the people to decide,” he had said.

Cattle slaughter rules

In May, beef been at the centre of controversy after the Centre had issued new rules that require cattle traders to give an undertaking that the animals being sold at markets would only be used for agricultural purposes. Several states and political parties had viewed the new rules as an effective ban on eating beef. Several states had massively criticised the notification, including Kerala, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh, among others. In July, the Supreme Court had extended a Madras High Court stay on the new rules across the country. It had said that livelihoods could not be “subjected to uncertainties”.