In her letter to Forum, Ms Grace Lim Kor Lei pointed out that supermarkets had been alerted to recall affected products on Aug 14, whereas the public announcement was made only on Aug 20 (AVA should have acted faster in contaminated infant milk case; Aug 25).
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has a rigorous system of checks to ensure the safety of all food products in Singapore.
For imported formula milk, each consignment must be accompanied by a health certificate and every new product is subjected to laboratory testing before it is released for sale.
Existing products are tested on a sampling basis as part of our food safety surveillance programme.
The implicated infant milk formula product has been in the market for more than 10 years and had passed all previous inspections and tests.
But in the latest test by AVA, we detected Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria in samples from the affected batch.
The AVA inspector immediately alerted the company to do a precautionary recall of the product.
AVA needed time to do further checks as this was the first detection of such bacteria in infant formula.
We investigated the potential causes and determined the extent of the contamination, as well as the specific batch of imports that had to be removed from retail shelves.
We have also put all new imports from the source on a hold-and-test regime until we are sure that safety is not compromised.
We acknowledge that the advisory to the public on this matter should have been issued earlier.
We will continue to improve our processes to provide information to the public in a timely manner.
Chua Tze Hoong (Dr)
Group Director, Quarantine & Inspection Group
Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority