New agency to oversee food security

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore will cease to exist from next April and its animal-related functions, such as animal welfare, will be transferred to the National Parks Board under the Ministry of National Development.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore will cease to exist from next April and its animal-related functions, such as animal welfare, will be transferred to the National Parks Board under the Ministry of National Development.PHOTO: ST FILE

Boost for food business, safety; AVA will cease to exist as NParks handles animal-related work

A new government agency will be formed on April 1 next year to oversee food safety and security, in a move expected to boost food safety standards for consumers and strengthen local food businesses.

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will come under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), and take over food-related work currently done by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), National Environment Agency (NEA) and Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

The AVA will cease to exist from April, and its animal-related functions, such as animal welfare, will be transferred to the National Parks Board (NParks) under the Ministry of National Development (MND).

The SFA aims to deal with global food supply challenges caused by climate change, but will also look to seize global opportunities in the food industry, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who announced the new agency yesterday at a media event at Commonwealth Capital Building in Jurong.

One challenge caused by climate change that he cited was plankton blooms, which threaten fish stocks as the micro-organisms suck oxygen from the water.

"The SFA will work closely with industry and research and deve-lopment partners to develop new solutions and products," Mr Ma-sagos said, adding that these include climate-resilient farming solutions and advanced food manufacturing techniques.

The agency, a statutory board, also intends to improve food safety.

Three agencies - the AVA, NEA and HSA - now regulate this across the food supply chain, but the SFA will be the sole organisation doing so from April next year. Mr Masagos said at the event: "For the consumers, we will also enhance food safety because (from next April) one agency, SFA, will look at investigation, enforcement as well as assurance for food safety."

The SFA will take charge of managing food-borne disease outbreaks and coordinate product tracing and recall. Mr Lim Kok Thai, chief executive of the AVA, will be concurrently appointed chief executive (designate) of the SFA before the changes take place next year.

Under the changes, NParks will become the lead agency for animal and wildlife management, as well as animal and plant health.

 
 
 

In a statement, MEWR and MND said: "The transfer of AVA's plant-and animal-related functions will allow NParks to provide a one-stop service to Singaporeans and stakeholders on animal management and animal welfare issues, manage human-animal interactions, and improve the detection of and response to zoonotic diseases."

Zoonotic diseases refer to those spread from animals to humans.

NParks will also have a new Animal and Veterinary Service that will be in touch with pet owners and businesses, as well as animal welfare groups.

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said: "With NParks as the lead agency for animal and wildlife management, as well as animal and plant health, we will work more closely with stakeholders to develop a science-based management approach, with holistic strategies and more effective responses."

The reorganisation will involve about 1,150 staff, said an MND spokesman. The SFA will have about 850 staff, 600 of whom will come from the AVA, 220 from NEA and 30 from HSA. About 300 AVA staff will move to NParks.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2018, with the headline 'New agency to oversee food security'. Print Edition | Subscribe