NEA needs to get tougher on food hygiene

Recent food poisoning incidents make me question our food hygiene standards.

The latest food poisoning case happened at CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) (200 students fall ill with symptoms of food poisoning; July 22).

That case aside, there appears to be a general drop in hygiene standards on the part of food handlers in Singapore.

Let me cite a few anecdotes just to show the frequency at which this might be happening.

I noticed a staff member of a popular toast cafe go to the toilet and return to the business of toasting bread without first washing her hands.

In another case, I witnessed a staff member in a famous bakery turn a blind eye to flies that had entered the bread display cabinet. She refused to do anything even when I pointed it out to her.

In yet another case, hawkers at a popular food centre could be seen cutting their ingredients on the dirty hawker tables and handling food with dirty hands.

Often, there is no sign of hand soaps, and the dish-washing sponges are extremely dirty.

And all these breaches were at food outlets graded A for hygiene.

While I applaud the National Environment Agency's (NEA's) effort to review the grading system, I think the annual inspection and certification of food handlers is insufficient.

A more reliable way would be for NEA officers in plain clothes to patronise food outlets and observe the way the food handlers work.

NEA should also carry out more thorough investigations when complaints are made.

When I complained to NEA about seeing a fly landing on a baked food item with a photograph for evidence, I received a flippant response.

I was told that no further action other than a verbal warning was required as the fly was no longer there when the NEA officer visited the outlet.

Jacqueline Lim Cheng Mui (Ms)