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Why does SFA take such a strict stance against street hawkers who are just trying to make a living? They are clearly in need, so shouldn't the government provide them some assistance?
Unregulated street hawking poses a risk to public health and pollutes the environment. For this reason, street hawkers were relocated into purpose-built hawker centres with proper facilities in the 1980s. All hawkers and their assistants involved in the sale of food have to undergo training in the safe handling and preparation of food. In order to protect public health and safety, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) takes action against illegal hawkers who circumvent our regulations.
In 2017, the majority of the feedback received was on the illegal hawking of food items, which include fruits, otah-otah, and curry puffs. During the same period, enforcement action was taken against about 340 illegal hawkers for selling food items or goods such as household products, clothes and mobile phone accessories. However, the best deterrence against illegal hawkers is for members of the public not to purchase any items, regardless of whether they are food or non-food, from them. Food sold may be unsafe and products may be of inferior quality. Such vendors come and go, and cannot be found if buyers have problems with their purchase. Through choosing such modes of sales, these illegal street hawkers are in effect passing the risks to the unsuspecting consumer to bear.
A very small number of Singaporeans and Permanent Residents, subject to meeting the stringent eligibility criteria, have been given street hawking licences under the Street Hawking Scheme. They sell specific approved items, such as newspapers and phone cards; and are required to display their licences when conducting their businesses. They are also required to peddle their wares at fixed locations in public places, with the support of Town Councils, which decide on the designated locations in order to ensure that street hawking activities do not adversely affect residents, businesses and other stakeholders in the vicinity.
Street hawking may not always be the best solution for someone trying to make a living. In the long run, street hawkers are encouraged to adopt more sustainable options such as picking up new skills through the various government-funded training programmes and seeking employment, or operating from a proper stall in a hawker centre or other retail premises to secure a more stable repeat clientele. Any Singaporean who wishes to embark on hawking may rent a hawker stall from monthly tender exercises carried out by SFA.
Local illegal hawkers in financial difficulties are referred to social service agencies. They can also approach Workforce Singapore (WSG) Career Centres located island-wide for career and training advice and services to enhance their job search skills and employability. SFA also provides assistance with the stall application process if they wish to bid for a hawker stall.
SFA will continue to take firm and decisive action against any person who engages in any illegal hawking activity. We advise members of the public to report on illegal hawkers by writing to us via https://www.sfa.gov.sg/feedback. Those found illegal hawking may have their goods seized and be fined $300, $400 and $500 for the first, second and third offences respectively. Upon the fourth and subsequent offences, they will be prosecuted in Court.
How do consumers assess the hygiene standards of a food retail establishment through the award decals under the new Food Hygiene Recognition Scheme, as compared to the current grading system?
Currently, all food retail establishments are graded either 'A', 'B', 'C' or 'D' based on an annual snapshot assessment of the premises' hygiene standards. The current grading scheme thus does not provide information on whether the food establishment had been consistent in its hygiene practices in the preceding period before attaining the grade. The new Scheme, on the other hand, aims to recognise those operators that are consistent in upholding high hygiene standards, based on their inspection track record.
By placing emphasis on track record, the new Food Hygiene Recognition Scheme aims to encourage operators to uphold good hygiene practices at all times. Operators who have maintained a good track record, with no major food hygiene offences for at least two years will be recognised with a Bronze Award, with those achieving five or more, and 10 or more years of good track record given the higher tier, Silver and Gold Awards, respectively. New operators will be given a 'Working Towards Excellent Food Hygiene Track Record' label for up to two years.
All SFA-licensed food retail establishments in Singapore are required to meet the minimum hygiene requirements before they are allowed to operate, including having the necessary infrastructure and trained expertise, such as passing the Basic Food Hygiene Course, to ensure the safe preparation, handling and sale of food. SFA conducts regular inspections to ensure that operators comply with the regulations.
Members of the public can check with the individual food retail establishments' hygiene track record and suspension record by visiting the SFA website, using the myENV mobile application or scanning the QR code on the licences displayed at the food retail establishment.
Some restaurants, hotels and caterers claim that SFA's 'consume within four hours' rule doesn't allow customers to pack home leftover food to avoid food wastage. Is this true?
Food-borne pathogenic bacteria multiples quickly between 5 degC and 60 degC. If a cooked food item is contaminated with such bacteria, for example, as a result of cross-contamination, keeping that contaminated food item at such ambient temperatures for more than four hours could result in the bacteria multiplying to reach sufficient levels that could cause food poisoning when the food item is consumed. Hence, SFA requires all catered food to be time-stamped, and food that has been cooked more than four hours prior should not be served to consumers. The time-stamp informs consumers of the recommended 'consume by' time, which is set at four hours from the time a cooked dish is placed at the temperature danger zone of between 5 degC and 60 degC. If there had not been any contamination initially, the food may be safe to eat even after the recommended 'consume by' time. Consumers should thus exercise judgement should they decide to consume food past the stated 'consume by' time.
Establishments that prepare smaller portions of food and serve it within a shorter timeframe or upon order have a lower risk of food being kept for prolonged periods at such ambient temperatures. Some also have a final cooking step, such as blanching or frying, before the food is served. Hence, food that is cooked and served immediately to patrons at a food retail establishment is not subjected to the four-hour time stamping requirement. Consumers who wish to pack home leftover food should likewise exercise their own discretion before consuming the food.
To minimise food wastage, consumers are encouraged to only order what they can finish. Some tips to avoid over-ordering include reducing the portions of each dish if there is a variety of dishes served, or requesting for smaller portions of carbohydrate items such as rice or noodles. The public can refer to SFA's food wastage reduction handy guide, which is available online and provides useful tips on how to reduce food wastage at home, when eating out and when planning for events. Food businesses, such as food retail establishments, can also do their part to minimise food wastage by offering different portion sizes to their customers and suggesting smaller portions of carbohydrate items. Caterers can offer a single carbohydrate item on their menus or options of swapping out carbohydrate item for other dishes. To help businesses take action to reduce food wastage, SFA has developed food waste minimisation guidebooks for food retail establishments, supermarkets and food manufacturing establishments. The guidebooks can be downloaded at
Isn't it contradictory that NEA promotes not wasting food, but SFA's food hygiene rules are stopping or discouraging businesses from donating food?
NEA encourages businesses to take active steps to minimise food wastage. This starts with avoiding wastage from excessive food preparation. Where this is unavoidable, excess food could be re-distributed and any remaining food waste should be segregated for recycling or treatment. To help businesses take action to reduce food wastage, NEA and the then AVA had developed food waste minimisation guidebooks for food retail establishments, supermarkets and food manufacturing establishments. Guidelines on the proper handling and re-distribution of unsold and excess food have been incorporated into the guidebooks to address food safety concerns.
NEA is also studying the possibility of 'Good Samaritan' laws in Singapore to ease business concerns about the donation of excess food. However, there is a need to ensure that any food donated is fit for consumption. In considering the feasibility of such laws, we would have to assess if a balance can be struck that facilitates food donation, while ensuring that food donors and food distributors exercise due care and practise good hygiene when distributing donated food. NEA will, in the meantime, continue to work closely with our partner agencies on measures to better manage food waste.
Do food poisoning incidents mean that SFA's good hygiene regulations are insufficient?
SFA adopts a multi-pronged approach to ensure good food hygiene standards in Singapore - education, surveillance and enforcement. Food handlers working in food retail establishments need to be registered with SFA and pass the mandatory Basic Food Hygiene Course (BFHC), so that food handlers are equipped with knowledge on good hygiene practices. Food handlers are responsible for the application of what they have learnt from the BFHC and the practice of good personal and food hygiene at all times. SFA also will continue to inspect food retail outlets regularly and strict enforcement action will be taken against any errant food retail outlets.
SFA has in place a Points Demerit System (PDS), which is a systematic and fair approach in dealing with the suspension or revocation of licences. If a licensee accumulates 12 demerit points or more within 12 months, his licence will either be suspended for two weeks or four weeks, or be revoked, depending on past suspension records. SFA publishes suspension notices on our website to inform the public.
Licensed food operators have the responsibility to ensure that food sold at retail outlets is prepared hygienically and safe for consumption. Food operators and their food handlers should observe good food and personal hygiene practices at all times. Food operators are also to ensure that all food handlers are registered with SFA and that they do not engage in any food preparation if they are sick. Food retail outlets are inspected regularly and strict enforcement action is taken against any errant food retail outlets.
In 2017, NEA conducted more than 88,000 inspections on food premises and took more than 3,100 enforcement actions against errant food operators who flouted hygiene regulations.
During these inspections, our officers also educate and remind licensees and food handlers on proper food and personal hygiene practices. Licensees who are convicted for hygiene lapses may be liable to a fine not exceeding $2,000 and may have their licences suspended or revoked. We encourage members of the public to support food outlets which observe good hygiene practices, and report those with potential hygiene lapses that merit investigation to SFA via https://www.sfa.gov.sg/feedback.
I am a new operator and the 'Working towards excellent food hygiene track record' label does not reflect the hygiene standard of my premises.
The Food Hygiene Recognition Scheme aims to recognise operators which have put in effort to uphold high hygiene standards consistently over a period of time. The 'Working Towards Excellent Food Hygiene Track Record' label is for new entrants to the food retail industry which are building up their hygiene track record. The label is valid for two years, to differentiate them from operators which had committed major hygiene offences in the last two years and thus have no label. Those with excellent food hygiene record will receive a Bronze award after two years.
I currently have a 'A' grade. However, based on my number of years of operation, I am only eligible for a 'Bronze' award. Am I being downgraded because I do not have sufficient number of years to qualify for a 'Gold' award under the new Scheme?
The current grading system and the new Food Hygiene Recognition Scheme are not directly comparable. Having an 'A' grade currently does not automatically qualify an operator for a 'Gold' award under the new Scheme. The grades under the current system are based on scores attained during an annual snapshot assessment, whereas the Food Hygiene Recognition Scheme takes into consideration operators' track record over a period of time.
Most licensees are already graded 'A' or 'B', and would qualify for a Bronze Award if they had been in operation for at least two years with a good track record. As this new Scheme will commence from late 2020, all existing licensees have sufficient time to work towards at least a Bronze Award. Those which have kept up their efforts and maintained a good track record for longer periods can look forward to attaining the higher award tiers.
Is it true that the sugar cane juice sold at hawker centres and foodshops is contaminated?
The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) is unable to ascertain when the rumours on contaminated sugar cane juice sold at our licensed hawker stalls and foodshops first appeared, and would like to clarify that the message is unfounded.
However, SFA requires all cut sugar cane to be obtained from producers that have in place good manufacturing practices, as well as the relevant registration and certification from their exporting countries. The cut sugar cane must be cleaned, boxed and transported in covered vehicles. SFA advises foodshop operators selling sugar cane juice not to leave the cut sugar cane on the floor. Like all licensed foodshop operators, they should observe hygienic handling practices, such as washing the stem of the sugar cane thoroughly, so that the juice sold to members of the public at retail food establishments and food stalls is hygienic.
Should members of the public require further assistance, they can contact SFA via https://www.sfa.gov.sg/feedback.
Is it true that restaurants offering delivery, takeaway and catering services are to stop selling ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes using saltwater fish?
Restaurants that offer dine-in, delivery and takeaway services can continue to sell ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes using saltwater fish.
The catering arms of restaurants that offer catering services are however required to stop sale of ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes using saltwater fish, until they can submit proof to SFA that they can comply with the requirements for RTE raw fish dishes. This stop-sale requirement also applies to other food establishments providing catering services and food stalls (in hawker centres, coffeeshops, canteens, food courts).
The catering arm of restaurants are required to stop sale until approved by SFA because of their higher-risk operations given the large amount of food prepared in advance and storage of the food for a period of time before consumption. With the large volume and varied cooking processes needed, the threat of cross-contamination is high.
Are fish sold at wet markets and ports safe to buy for cooking? Can I eat cooked fish that are sold at the hawker centres and other retail food establishments?
Yes, as long as the fish is cooked properly, it is safe to eat. Most fish sold at Singapore's general markets and fishery ports are intended for cooking, and should not be eaten raw. Depending on the quality of the waters in which they were bred in, harvested from, or transported in, fish could carry a number of parasites or naturally occurring bacteria. Cooking is still the most effective way to kill the bacteria.
Is it true that SFA has banned to sale of all ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes?
No. Retail food establishments which sell ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes can use saltwater fish which are intended for raw consumption. However, they cannot use freshwater fish in such dishes. The National Environment Agency (NEA) had banned the use of freshwater fish in all RTE raw fish dishes on 5 December 2015, as a further step to protect consumers from public health risks. This is because tests conducted by NEA and AVA have found such fish to have significantly higher bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and are likely to present higher risks of infection when consumed raw.
As part of the requirements, all food stalls (hawker centres, coffeeshops, canteens, food courts) and food establishments providing catering services will have to submit proof to SFA that they can comply with the requirements for RTE raw fish dishes before they can resume the sale of these dishes, using saltwater fish. Restaurants can continue selling RTE raw fish dishes using saltwater fish, but will be required to meet the same stringent standards. SFA's data indicate that such fish sampled from restaurants have low levels of overall bacterial contamination.
SFA advises that all retail food establishments that sell RTE raw fish dishes are to source such raw fish from suppliers that adopt proper cold chain management and hygienic handling practices of the fish. Such practices should be adopted by all suppliers and retail food establishments, who should also practise proper segregation of fish intended for raw consumption from other raw food ingredients intended for cooking. Most fish sold at Singapore's wet markets, fresh produce section of supermarkets and fishery ports do not meet these conditions, and should not be eaten raw.
While investigations did not detect Type III GBS ST283 (the strain of GBS associated with the recent spike in human cases) in sashimi sold at retail food establishments, members of the public should note that there are always risks involved in consuming raw fish as harmful bacteria and parasites may be present. Should one choose to consume raw fish, the risk of food borne illness can be reduced by purchasing fish that are intended for raw consumption. Vulnerable groups of people, such as young children, pregnant women, elderly persons, or people with chronic illness, should avoid the consumption of raw fish.
Following recent incidents of illegal cleaning of grease traps, there have been concerns that waste oil collected from grease traps could enter Singapore's food streams.
Under the Sewerage and Drainage Act, food establishments in Singapore are required by PUB, the national water agency, to provide grease traps and maintain them regularly by engaging licensed general waste collectors. Grease traps filter and prevent grease from entering the sewerage system.
Process of Collection and Disposal of Waste from Grease Traps
There is a proper system in place for the collection and disposal of waste from grease traps. Such waste is collected by licensed general waste collectors who are equipped with vacuum trucks. Hoses are attached to these vacuum trucks to suction out waste which is then disposed of at PUB's designated water reclamation plant. (Refer to Fig 1 below for a diagrammatic illustration for the process of collection and disposal of waste from grease traps.)
Regular Checks and Enforcement to Ensure Public Cleanliness and Food Safety
The SFA takes a serious view on the proper collection and disposal of waste from grease traps, and will enforce against any unauthorised waste collectors, and any licensee who violates the conditions of licence or engages in illegal disposal of the waste. Offenders are liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $2,000.
SFA also carries out regular checks at food establishments to ascertain that the ingredients used, including cooking oil, are from approved/licensed sources, and will take action against operators who flout the rules.
In addition, SFA adopts a holistic system based on risk analysis, encompassing legislation and standards, accreditation, import control, inspection and surveillance, as well as laboratory testing, to ensure food safety. As part of SFA's routine surveillance, all food imports - including cooking oil - are subjected to regular inspections and sampling for compliance to ASFs food safety standards and requirements. Food products that do not adhere to AVA's standards and requirements will not be allowed for sale.
SFA also regularly inspects licensed food manufacturing establishments, including those that manufacture or use cooking oils, to ensure that good manufacturing practices are adhered to. Samples of oil and food products are taken for laboratory testing to ensure compliance. Enforcement action will be taken against food manufacturers who do not comply with the requirements and the contaminated products will be destroyed.
Members of the public who come across unauthorised collection of waste from grease traps can contact SFA via
to provide details of the incident.
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