Oral Reply by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on Food Hygiene and Cleanliness, on 4 January 2021
Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin : To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) how often do NEA and SFA conduct checks on the hygiene of food stalls and catering licensees; (b) whether these have been affected by the circuit breaker measures; and (c) what steps are taken to work with food stall licensees to improve cleanliness and hygiene standards when such stalls are faced with licence suspensions.
Oral Reply by Minister Grace Fu:
The formation of the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) in April 2019 has brought together all food-related functions under a single agency to enhance regulatory oversight of the entire food supply chain. All food establishments, including food stalls and caterers, are licensed by SFA and required to comply with SFA's licensing conditions and regulatory requirements. These include maintaining and cleaning their stalls regularly, ensuring that workers who handle food have attended and passed the requisite food safety courses, and having proper infrastructure in place to safely prepare, handle and sell food.
SFA conducts routine inspections to ensure that the food safety regulations are adhered to. The inspection frequency is guided by the risk profile of the food establishments, which is based on the premises type, nature of food sold, food handling process and compliance track record. SFA also conducts ad-hoc inspections in response to feedback received from the public. From April 2019 to March 2020, SFA conducted more than 47,000 inspections on food stalls and caterers, which was on average about twice per food stall or caterer over this period.
During the Circuit Breaker period, the total number of inspections conducted temporarily decreased as some food establishments had ceased their operations. SFA resumed its usual frequency of inspections after the Circuit Breaker period. In February when we started detecting COVID-19 cases in Singapore, my Ministry launched the SG Clean campaign to rally all Singaporeans to keep Singapore clean. As part of the campaign, we introduced sanitation and hygiene checklists for food establishments which highlighted key practices to safeguard food safety and reduce contamination risks. SFA and NEA also issued joint advisories and stepped up engagement efforts with food establishments on the importance of ramping up cleaning efforts to safeguard public health. Such engagement efforts and food safety checks continued during the Circuit Breaker period, when critical food services were allowed to remain open for takeaway and delivery services, to ensure food safety for consumers.
SFA also ensures that food establishments that have breached any of the licensing conditions are aware of the rectifications needed to comply with them. SFA will inform licensees of the necessary corrective actions whenever a food safety lapse is detected during an inspection. In the case of a suspension, all food handlers must also re-attend and pass the Basic Food Hygiene Course (BFHC) before they are able to resume work at the premises. The BFHC equips food handlers with relevant food safety and hygiene knowledge, including proper food handling and good personal hygiene practices. All appointed food hygiene officers working in suspended premises will also be required to re-attend and pass the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications Conduct Food and Beverage Hygiene Audit course to ensure that they remain properly trained to be able to continue to oversee and enhance the food safety standards of the premises. SFA will also carry out a re-inspection after the suspension has been lifted to ensure the food establishment has rectified the lapses.