NEA to take action against Kopitiam after employee was caught washing shoes in sink

The female Kopitiam employee washing one of her shoes at a sink.
The female Kopitiam employee washing one of her shoes at a sink. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/QUEENIE HERE

SINGAPORE - The National Environment Agency (NEA) said it will take action against food court operator Kopitiam after one of its employees was caught on camera washing her shoes in a sink at an outlet in the National University Hospital (NUH).

The employee has been sacked after the incident was highlighted on social media.

In a statement, the NEA said it has investigated the matter. "The wash basin is usually used by food handlers to wash their hands and food containers. This episode was a flagrant breach of hygiene that could have resulted in contamination of food and utensils," said the statement.

Facebook user "Queenie Here" posted the video last Sunday (June 21) night. She wrote: "Care for a dessert @NUH Kopitiam? I wanted to order dessert after my dinner. Unfortunately I saw this scene....."

The clip, which lasts almost two minutes, shows the woman scrubbing both her shoes with a brush under a running tap within the cold desserts section of the food court. She then appeared to return the brush to a container which held other kitchen utensils.

As of 11am on Tuesday, the clip had attracted more than 270,000 views and was shared over 14,000 times.

It also attracted over 1,000 comments, with a large number of netizens expressing their disgust at the lack of hygiene exhibited.

"How can the staff do that? They are preparing food for people to eat and drink," wrote user Amy Goh. 

"Unbelievable and unacceptable!!!" wrote Cecilia Lim.

Kopitiam, known for its chain of food courts in Singapore, has since apologised for the incident. In a post on Facebook on Tuesday morning, it assured customers that the washing equipment used by the employee had been replaced and the sink disinfected. 

"The staff in question has been terminated with immediate effect and we will be conducting a thorough investigation into this matter," it added. 

A Kopitiam spokesman said that the company will also be conducting a hygiene briefing for all staff members working in the food court. 

NUH wrote on its Facebook page that it was aware of the video and had alerted Kopitiam's management.

According to the NEA, food retail outlets who are convicted for hygiene lapses may be fined not more than $2,000 and have their licences suspended. 

It urged the public to call its 24-hour NEA Call Centre on 1800-2255632 should it come across any poor hygiene practices in food establishments.