SINGAPORE - While Jurong West residents may visit the wet market and hawker centre at Street 52 to buy groceries or enjoy a bowl of noodles, a clean- up operation last weekend turned up an item off the menu - rats.
Around 20 rodents were caught over five hours on Sunday evening as part of extermination efforts in the area, Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News reported on Monday (Nov 21). The operation is being conducted by the National Environment Agency (NEA), the Jurong- Clementi Town Council and Star Pest Control.
Eighteen cases of rat sightings in the area were reported to the NEA this year. Last month, the NEA found six rat burrows in the area around Block 505 and 507 at Jurong West Street 52.
Spring cleaning at the food centre - organised by the town council, the hawkers' association and the NEA - was originally scheduled for Dec 5 and 6, but it was brought forward to be held in conjunction with the rat control operation.
The market and food centre will be closed until Wednesday (Nov 23) for cleaning.
The NEA said that, as of the end of last month, more than 125,000 inspections had been conducted this year on food retail establishments, including hawker stalls, and more than 190 enforcement actions had been taken against owners of premises, including shopping malls and food establishments.
"NEA takes a serious view of rat infestation issues in food retail establishments as it may compromise food hygiene and safety," said the agency. "Stallholders in hawker centres, as with licensed food operators, have the responsibility to ensure that food sold is prepared hygienically and is safe for consumption."
There were 20,000 rat burrows found in public areas islandwide in the first half of this year.
Hawker centres have "always been a problem area" for rats, said Mr Thomas Fernandez, chief executive of pest control company Pestbusters.
"A proper ecosystem needs to be put in place," he said, adding that this would include educating stallholders on cleanliness and ensuring that waste is cleared regularly.