Newly sworn-in Minister of State for Tourism Alphons Kannanthanam has kicked off a controversy by saying that foreign tourists were free to eat beef in their own countries and then come to India.

The 64-year-old bureaucrat-turned-politician from Kerala was speaking to reporters at the 33rd annual convention of the Indian Association of Tour Operators in Bhubaneswar.

This also comes close on the heels of Kannanthanam's earlier statement that said beef would continue to be consumed in Kerala.

However, when the minister was asked about his earlier statements, he said, "It's a cock-and-bull story. I am not the food minister to decide on it."

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