Ms Foo Mee Har: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) what is the current number of home-based food businesses operating in Singapore; (b) what has been its growth trend in the last three years; and (c) how can such businesses be supported with some form of licensing requirements tailored to home kitchens to support the sustainable growth of this sector.
Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) in the past five years, what is the annual number of food poisoning cases that have occurred as a result of consuming food sold by home-based food businesses; and (b) what are the food hygiene safety standards imposed on home-based food businesses.
1 To supplement the household income of residents, home-based businesses are permitted to operate under the Housing & Development Board’s (HDB) and Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) home-based business schemes, for residents living in HDB and private residential premises respectively. The scale of home-based businesses is limited by conditions under these schemes. For instance, the business should not materially change the residential nature of the premises. Residents must also not employ any persons outside the household, use non-domestic heavy equipment, move goods by vans and trucks, and inconvenience their neighbours, amongst others. HDB and URA do not have records of the number of home-based businesses, including those engaged in food, as approval is not required for these activities.
2 The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) takes a risk-based approach in regulating food businesses. As the food safety risks associated with small-scale home-based food businesses are low, SFA does not require them to be licensed. Home-based food businesses are, however, subject to the Environmental Public Health Act and the Sale of Food Act and are required to ensure that the food they sell is prepared in a manner that is safe for human consumption. They should comply with SFA’s guidelines on good food safety handling practices. SFA will investigate feedback or food safety incidents linked to the home-based food businesses and take enforcement or other necessary action in the event of food safety breaches.
3 The number of food poisoning-related feedback linked to home-based food businesses which the Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA) and SFA received over the past five years remain low, at less than five cases on average per year. Of these, investigations found that only one case from 2019 could be attributed to consumption of food prepared by a home-based food business. SFA took action against the home-based food business owner, by prohibiting commercial food preparation and distribution from the unit. With regard to the recent suspected food poisoning case involving a home-based food business, The Peachy Sugarmaker, investigations into the cause of the food poisoning incident are still ongoing.
4 The completion of the Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) Food Safety Course Level 1 is currently a requirement for all food handlers working in licensed food premises. SFA is considering the need to make it mandatory for home-based food business owners to undergo training and certification under the WSQ Food Safety Course in order to uplift the standards of their food safety practices, and will consult the public.
5 If home-based food businesses are keen to expand operations beyond what their homes can support, they should set up licensed food premises outside their homes.