Parliament: Fewer hygiene inspections of food stalls, caterers in 2020 due to circuit breaker, says Grace Fu

Authorities have kept up standards through other means, including by issuing advisories and other engagement efforts.
Authorities have kept up standards through other means, including by issuing advisories and other engagement efforts.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Fewer hygiene inspections of food stalls and caterers were carried out in 2020, partly due to the disruption caused by the two-month circuit breaker, which led to a number of food establishments ceasing operations.

However, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) resumed its usual frequency of inspections after June, said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu in Parliament on Monday (Jan 4).

She added that the authorities have kept up standards through other means, including by issuing advisories and other engagement efforts. These efforts, which continued during the circuit breaker period from April to June last year, also included sanitation and hygiene checklists for food establishments.

Ms Fu was responding to a question by Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin (Ang Mo Kio GRC) on how often the authorities conduct hygiene checks on food stalls and catering licencees, whether these have been affected by the circuit breaker measures, and what steps have been taken to improve stalls' cleanliness when suspensions are issued.

The SFA makes sure stallholders clean their stalls regularly and that workers who handle food attend and pass the requisite food safety courses. Food handlers are also expected to have the proper infrastructure in place to safely prepare, handle and sell food.

Ms Fu said that from April 2019 to March 2020, before the circuit breaker period, SFA conducted more than 47,000 inspections, or about two inspections per food stall or caterer. This rate of inspection later "temporarily decreased".

She added: "The inspection frequency is guided by the risk profile of the food establishments, which is based on the premises type, nature of food sold, food handling process and compliance track record.

"SFA also conducts ad-hoc inspections in response to feedback received from the public."

All food handlers for stalls or caterers whose licence has been suspended must also re-attend and pass a basic food hygiene course before they can resume work, she said.

Food hygiene officers who oversee the suspended premises will also be required to redo and pass a food and beverage hygiene audit course to continue their supervisory work.

SFA will re-inspect the premises after the suspension has been lifted to make sure the problems previously identified have been fixed.