- The Straits Times
Food establishments involved in significant food poisoning incidents now face even stiffer penalties, following a series of large-scale incidents in the last two months which involved around 600 people and resulted in one death.
The changes are the result of a review of the overall regulatory framework aimed at ensuring food establishments take greater responsibility for the hygiene standards of their premises and operational processes, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said on Friday (Dec 21).
In a joint press release, NEA and AVA said that with immediate effect, total composition fines will be increased and more food operator offenders, especially those who commit serious hygiene offences, will be prosecuted in court.
Food operators have to comply with the Environment Public Health (Food Hygiene) Regulations, the Sale of Food Act, and the Environment Public Health Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $10,000 for a first offender, and a fine of $20,000, or imprisonment of three months, or both for repeat offenders.
“In appropriate cases, NEA and AVA will also press for deterrent sentences to be imposed by the court,” the statement said.
Earlier this year, it was announced that a new Singapore Food Agency will be launched in 2019 to align regulatory framework and enhance regulatory oversight over all food related matters “from farm to fork”.
In addition, the authorities will also tighten the role and accountability of food hygiene officers in food courts, canteens, caterers and larger restaurants. “In the event that the licence of a food establishment is suspended, all its food hygiene officers are required to go for retraining and pass the Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Conduct Food & Beverage Hygiene Audit course,” the authorities said.
A suspended food establishment must have a qualified food hygiene officer before its suspension can be lifted.
Last week, authorities said that the recent food poisoning outbreaks – at Mandarin Orchard Singapore hotel, FoodTalks Caterer and Manufacturer, Tung Lok Catering at Singapore Expo, and Spize restaurant at River Valley Road – were not linked.
On Friday, the authorities said they had completed most of the stepped-up inspections on food establishments that provide catering services and other premises with substantial catering operations during the festive period, and is set to complete all inspections by end of the year.
These inspections are in addition to the regular inspections of the 40,700 food establishments in Singapore, that take place throughout the year.
Regular year-end advisories to food operators have also been issued to remind them to adhere to good hygiene practices during food preparation and handling.
NEA has also conducted face-to-face engagement sessions with key representatives from the Association of Catering Professionals Singapore (ACAPS) and the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) on these issues.