Hygiene lapses by food operators on the rise

More cases of food operators caught flouting hygiene regulations have been recorded this year.

As of end November, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has carried out about 136,000 checks on food outlets and taken action against errant operators in more than 2,700 cases. It has also suspended 137 licences, it said yesterday.

As of Dec 12 last year, it did 167,000 checks and punished the operators involved in 2,182 cases, including suspending 58 licences.

Those guilty of hygiene lapses can be fined up to $2,000, and may have their licences suspended.

NEA released the latest numbers together with its annual reminder to both food operators and the public to practise good food hygiene during the festive season.

In particular, it stressed that all food outlets selling ready-to-eat raw fish dishes - including the Chinese-style "yusheng" dish - should use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption from Dec 5.

Such fish should be hygienically handled and kept separate from other fish intended for cooking so as to avoid cross-contamination.

All food stalls and establishments providing catering services must not sell such raw fish until they can submit proof that they can meet the requirements for sale.

This advisory comes in the wake of the Group B streptococcus bacterial outbreak earlier this year, during which several people fell seriously ill after eating raw fish dishes.

Those who wish to check if a particular retailer has approval to sell such dishes can visit the NEA website or use the NEA app. They can also scan the QR code on the NEA licence displayed at the food outlet.

NEA also reminded the public to engage only licensed caterers and eat the food within the stated time. They can find a list of licensed caterers on its website.

The public can report poor hygiene practices at food places by calling the NEA on 1800-225-5632.

Linette Lai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2015, with the headline 'Hygiene lapses by food operators on the rise'. Print Edition | Subscribe