New hygiene rating system for eateries to kick in from late 2020

File photo showing a hawker centre in Singapore. Currently, food establishments are graded A, B, C or D annually based on a "snapshot assessment" of their premises.
File photo showing a hawker centre in Singapore. Currently, food establishments are graded A, B, C or D annually based on a "snapshot assessment" of their premises. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The National Environment Agency (NEA) will replace the existing hygiene grading system for eateries in late 2020, in the the first review of its kind in over 20 years.

The new food hygiene recognition scheme will focus on consistency, with establishments awarded bronze, silver and gold ratings based on their track record.

Eateries with no major hygiene lapses for two years will get a bronze award, and those with a clean record of five or 10 years will get silver and gold respectively.

Currently, establishments are graded A, B, C or D annually based on a "snapshot assessment" of their premises.

This system has been in place since 1997, with 99 per cent of the 36,000 licensees achieving grade A or B at the end of last year, up from 77 per cent in 2006.

NEA said the existing system has become "less useful in helping consumers to distinguish good performers" with almost all licensees being graded A or B. Operators with good grades have also been linked to food hygiene lapses.

For new establishments that have been operating for less than two years, a label that states "working towards excellent food hygiene track record" will be displayed.

As part of the transition, eateries currently with an A grade can voluntarily apply for the new award from April 1 next year.

The new scheme will take full effect from late 2020, to give time for all existing licensees to attain at least a bronze award.

Currently, only a third of eateries would receive an award if the system were to be immediately implemented, with only 5 per cent eligible to receive the gold award.

The NEA said the new scheme has been developed in consultation with industry partners such as the Restaurant Association of Singapore, the Singapore Hotel Association, coffee shop associations and hawker associations.

Kenneth Lee, president of Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant and Bar-Owners Association, praised the new scheme, saying it allows businesses "to be transparent to customers about hygiene standards".

Catering company Food Fest added it will benefit as "consumers will have more confidence" in placing orders.

Mr Aaron Yeo, co-founder of cafe Waa Cow!, said: "The public must first be able to appreciate those establishments that have also achieved gold, but also understand that the establishments who have not got that rating yet are not necessarily unhygienic."

Mr Sheik A Hamid, 31, a hawker at Geylang Serai Market, believes the new scheme is fair and “encourages food businesses to maintain and improve their grading”.

He added that it will build more trust with customers as the cleanliness rating rewards consistency.

The NEA said the public can check on an establishment's track record, such as suspension history and accumulated demerit points, on its website or the myENV mobile application.

Licensees can attend a series of briefing sessions over the coming weeks for details on the scheme's implementation.