Caterers may get accreditation scheme following suspected food poisoning case

Case talking with industry body on scheme to raise standards in wake of suspected poisoning case

Case will be meeting the Association of Catering Professionals to discuss setting up a joint accreditation scheme for the industry. PHOTO: NEO GROUP

Caterers may soon be subject to new standards, expected to raise hygiene and safety in the food industry, under an accreditation scheme that is in the works.

Case will be meeting the Association of Catering Professionals (Acaps) next month to discuss the establishment of a joint accreditation scheme, Case executive director Seah Seng Choon told The Straits Times earlier this week.

The move follows the suspension last week of Kuisine Catering, which is being investigated by the authorities for a recent case of suspected mass food poisoning involving at least 130 people.

Mr Seah said: "We hope... consumers can have peace of mind when shopping from accredited catering businesses which have gone through stringent checks."

The consumer watchdog could not give details of how the scheme will work as discussions have just started.

There are CaseTrust accreditation schemes for businesses such as travel agencies, renovation companies and school bus operators.

These schemes, which have a voluntary sign-up, usually require firms to have clear and proper dispute-resolution mechanisms and to employ well-trained staff.

This gives consumers assurance that the businesses will remain accountable even if they run into problems, and that the risk of service lapses is minimised.

But when it comes to food, the closest kind of protection consumers have are a series of guidelines issued by the National Environment Agency for caterers.

These include a rule introduced in 2012 that requires caterers to time-stamp food and provide "consume by" signs to ensure that the food is eaten within four hours.

Victims of the recent food poisoning claimed last week that Kuisine Catering did not do this when it delivered the food.

Student Darren Ng, 25, one of those who came down with vomiting and diarrhoea after eating from a buffet catered by the company on Feb 13, applauded the move to accredit caterers. He said: "When a brand gets more popular, caterers may get a large amount of orders, especially during festive seasons... (which might lead to them taking) short cuts... I'm sure that with this new scheme, caterers will step up their game."

Acaps has 87 members, including the Jumbo group of restaurants, Tung Lok Events & Catering, Purple Sage Group and Rasel Catering. Kuisine Catering is not part of it.

Meanwhile, Case and the Hair & Cosmetology Association (Singapore) are partnering to help prevent consumers from being left with paid-up but unused packages when hair salons close down.

Yesterday, they signed a memorandum of understanding to develop, in the next nine months, an accreditation scheme for the hair industry. Salons that sign up will have to meet strict criteria.

Case also hopes to introduce consumer education lessons in secondary schools in the near future.

•Additional reporting by Melissa Lin

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2016, with the headline Caterers may get accreditation scheme following suspected food poisoning case. Subscribe