More than 300 TCM shops that prepare food and drinks must apply for food retail licences: NEA

Traditional Chinese Medicine stores that prepare food and drinks such as herbal tea and tea-leaf eggs on site have until March 1, 2019, to apply for food retail licences.
Traditional Chinese Medicine stores that prepare food and drinks such as herbal tea and tea-leaf eggs on site have until March 1, 2019, to apply for food retail licences.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More than 300 Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) stores that currently prepare food and drinks on their premises for customers must apply for food retail licences, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a statement on Thursday (Jan 25).

Such stores that prepare food and drinks such as herbal tea and tea-leaf eggs on site have until March 1 next year to do so.

Additionally, new TCM stores that intend to have the same practices must apply for the licence for such food preparation areas within their premises from NEA by March 1 this year.

The areas must comply with the design and infrastructural requirements as stipulated in the Code of Practice for Environmental Health (COPEH) for food retail.

Those who prepare such food and drinks must also attend and pass the Basic Food Hygiene Course, which teaches food handlers how to handle and prepare food safely and hygienically.

There are more than 300 existing TCM shops that have such practices, according to NEA's checks with the Singapore Chinese Druggists Association and other major chain operators.

To obtain a licence, the stores must meet basic requirements such as having a piped water inlet and waste water outlet in the food preparation area.

Other COPEH requirements could be waived on a case-by-case basis until the premises undergo any major renovations that are needed.

NEA will share its design and operational guidelines with existing operators on how they can ensure hygienic food preparation in their current premises.

NEA said in a statement on Thursday that it was aware that some TCM shops have been preparing and selling herbal tea within their premises.

"While there have not been major incidents linked to food or drinks from TCM shops, there is always a risk that food preparation activities, if not done hygienically, can pose risks to public health, such as that of food poisoning," said NEA.

It has engaged the Singapore Chinese Druggists Association and TCM shops on its new move, which aims to ensure hygienic preparation of such products and to strengthen food hygiene standards.

NEA said it has also reviewed and incorporated "the constructive feedback and suggestions given by the industry, such as offering a longer compliance timeline for existing premises and aligning the licensing requirements to be comparable to those of food shops with similar simple set-ups, for example, those selling bubble tea".

NEA said it will be reaching out to TCM operators in the months to come for further cooperation.

TCM operators can visit NEA's website here for more information on licensing requirements.

TCM shops that do not prepare food or drinks on site, or that have decided to stop doing so, do not need to apply for a food retail licence from NEA.