AVA has comprehensive food safety system in place

We refer to Ms Ivy Singh's letter (Are food safety checks robust enough? March 10).

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) has in place a comprehensive system to ensure that both imported and locally produced food is safe for consumption. This comprises control measures such as source accreditation, random inspections and sample testing.

Checks are applied for processes across the entire supply chain, from pre-import to sale.

While this system is robust, it is guided by a science-based risk assessment and management approach that is consistent with international standards.

This means food that is more susceptible to food-borne diseases is subjected to more stringent checks, regardless of its country of origin.

For example, livestock, meat and eggs are more likely to carry animal and food-borne diseases.

In this regard, they are only allowed to be imported from accredited establishments from approved countries.

Other food products such as seafood, fruit, vegetables and processed food can be imported from more sources, but are subjected to post-import inspection and sample testing based on our risk assessment.

Samples are tested for a wide range of food-borne hazards, such as chemical contaminants like pesticide residues, heavy metals and drug residues, and micro-organisms - for example, harmful bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and listeria. Food found to be unsafe for consumption will not be allowed for sale.

AVA also carries out horizon scanning and keeps abreast of developments globally, so that we can quickly detect and assess food safety-related issues, and take prompt action.

Where relevant, we will actively reach out to our food safety counterparts overseas and work closely with them to share information. AVA will also take precautionary measures to effectively control situations where food safety may be compromised.

Within Singapore, AVA works closely with our One Health partners - the Ministry of Health and National Environment Agency - as well as stakeholders from the food industry like food importers, food processors and supermarkets.

Ensuring our food safety is a priority. Moving forward, AVA will continue to ensure that the regulations in place remain robust, and we will remain vigilant and closely monitor global issues.

Notwithstanding our efforts, consumers must take personal responsibility and adopt good food safety practices.

Consumers can visit AVA's website at www.ava.gov.sg for tips on buying, storing and handling food.

Paul Chiew (Dr)

Programme Chief (Food Safety)

Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2018, with the headline 'AVA has comprehensive food safety system in place'. Print Edition | Subscribe