Is it safe to consume food left on display for hours at hawker stalls?

Items for Indian rojak displayed at a hawker centre in Singapore.
Items for Indian rojak displayed at a hawker centre in Singapore.PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

The experts advise that all cooked food kept at room temperature should be consumed within two hours as even reheating it will not kill the bacteria (Sick after eating delivered food, Sept 2).

What about cooked food at eateries?

For example, it is common to see cooked Indian rojak items displayed on the shelves for hours, even though hawkers heat them up after diners pick what they want.

Yet, we are told that warming up food will not kill the bacteria completely.

It is the same with items sold at nasi padang and "economy rice" stalls, which are found at many hawker centres, foodcourts and coffee shops.

Most of the hawkers start cooking the food in the morning to cater to the lunchtime diners.

For breakfast dishes like fried noodles, it is common for hawkers to start cooking them as early as 5am, which leaves the food exposed for more than two hours by the time people get to consume it.

My hawker friend told me that economy rice dishes may be kept longer because the trays the food is placed in trap heat and keep the food warm.

Hawkers will not recook the food because doing so will diminish its taste and texture.

Perhaps the Singapore Food Agency should look into this practice by hawkers in the interest of food safety.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2019, with the headline 'Is it safe to consume food left on display for hours at hawker stalls?'. Print Edition | Subscribe