Maintaining a Clean and Healthy Environment

Enhancing Food Hygiene

Food Hygiene Officer Scheme for School Canteens

Maintaining a high standard of food and personal hygiene in food establishments requires constant vigilance and supervision.

This can be achieved by training a senior staff member to become a Food Hygiene Officer (FHO) to oversee and implement effective food hygiene systems, conduct in-house supervision and correct any irregularities detected, and thus ensure safe and hygienic food preparation.

In December 2000, NEA first introduced the FHO scheme to restaurants and caterers. The scheme was subsequently extended to school canteens from 1 January 2010 to increase supervision of canteen operations, and would be extended to food courts by the third quarter of 2011.

Points Demerit System for Main Food Operators

The Points Demerit System (PDS) had been in place for food stalls and food shops as a means to ensure uniformity in meting out penalties for food hygiene offences. From November 2010, the PDS was extended to the main operators of coffee shops, food courts and canteens. Demerit points issued were for offences related to general cleanliness and the maintenance of common areas in the premises, such as toilets and refreshment areas. The accumulation of 24 demerit points within 12 months would lead to licence suspension for up to three days:
  • First suspension – closure for one day

  • Second suspension (within 12 months of the first suspension) – closure for two days

  • Third suspension (within 12 months of the second suspension) – closure for three days
The premises would be cleaned during the suspension period. All the stallholders within the coffee shop, food court or canteen would need to cease business operations to facilitate the cleaning process.

Note: Demerit points issued for offences committed by individual stallholders would be accrued to the stallholders and not the main operator.

As of end March 2011, 5% of the 1,735 main operators of coffee shops, food courts and canteens have been issued with demerit points.

Some of the common offences include:
  • Failure to keep the toilets clean and in good working condition

  • Failure to provide toilet paper, soap, etc. in toilets

  • Failure to maintain sanitary fittings, etc. in good working condition

  • Failure to keep licensed premises free from infestation

Increased Frequency of Checks at Food Outlets

The number of officers conducting inspections increased from 63 in January 2010 to 102 in March 2011.

The increased manpower had allowed NEA to carry out more frequent inspections of stalls which had poorer food hygiene grades, and at premises where the standards of cleanliness required improvement.

Currently, hygiene officers conduct an average of 250 inspections daily, as compared to 193 in January 2010.

Greater Penalties for Food Hygiene-related Offences

Since 1 April 2010, the composition fine for food hygiene-related offences had been increased as detailed in the table below.

Severity of Offence Demerit Points Composition Fine
before 1 April 2010
Composition Fine
after 1 April 2010
Minor Offence 2 points $100
Major Offence 4 points $300
Serious Offence 6 points $400

The reason for raising the fines was to further deter hygiene infringements based on severity, as these have the potential to cause serious food poisoning outbreaks.

Some of the most common or frequent types of offences include:
  • Failure to keep the premises clean
  • Pest infestation
  • Failure to protect food within covered receptacles
  • Handling food with bare hands
At the same time, operators who had their licences suspended under the Points Demerit System (PDS) were also required to send all their food handlers to attend and pass the Basic Food Hygiene Course, before they were allowed to resume work.

The number of enforcement actions taken for food hygiene and related infringements per 1,000 licensed food outlets over the past three years till FY2010 is listed in the table below.

  2007 20082009 2010
Licensed outlets30,49431,033
Enforcement 2,212 3,080 2,650 3,469
Enforcement per 1,000 outlets 739981 104
Suspension 203924 25

A.C.E. in Hygiene

The A.C.E. in Hygiene programme implemented by the Central Regional Office aimed to educate and raise awareness of personal and food hygiene in the community.

It encouraged food handlers to adopt good hygiene habits at all times.

The three key good hygiene messages the programme promoted were to:
  • Adopt good personal hygiene habits and toilet etiquette
  • Comply with regulations and follow good food hygiene practices
  • Ensure good housekeeping to maintain good standards of food hygiene and sanitation

Food Hygiene Refresher Course

To raise the standards of food hygiene, food handlers had to undergo refresher training once every three years to be reminded of good food hygiene practices.

NEA appointed the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) as the training provider for the refresher training for food handlers. The course contents included:

  • Common Food and Personal Hygiene Infringements
  • Dos and Don’ts When Preparing Food
  • Case studies – Food poisoning
  • Points Demerit System / Legislation
Refresher training was implemented progressively starting with food caterers in October 2010, followed by school canteens. Gradually, the training would be extended to other premises as well.

Between October 2010 and the end of February 2011, a total of 1,301 food handlers attended the Food Hygiene Refresher Course. The average pass rate was 90%.

Increasing Consumer Awareness and Education

Ensuring food safety is a shared responsibility among all stakeholders, including consumers.

Recognising that consumers have an important role to play in reducing the risk of food poisoning, NEA continues to educate the public on exercising good hygiene practices when consuming catered food.

These include discarding food that had been left at room temperature for a prolonged period or showed signs of spoiling, as well as engaging licensed caterers only. Simple guidelines on ordering catered meals for functions and events had been published on NEA’s website since November 2010.

As a further safeguard, NEA would impose the requirement for mandatory time-stamping on caterers by the end of 2011. Time-stamping is done through the provision of an advisory on the “consume-by” timing of catered meals. This would help to raise consumer awareness of the safety of consuming catered meals, and complement efforts to minimise the risk of food poisoning.

In January 2011, NEA met with the Association of Catering Professionals of Singapore to discuss the implementation details and seek feedback. NEA also conducted a series of dialogue sessions with food caterers licensed by the organisation.

CLEAN Food Everyday

CLEAN Food Everyday was an extension of the CLEAN Everyday @ North West food shop programme, which has now been extended to target food caterers.

Implemented in March 2009, it reminded caterers of the importance of providing clean and hygienic food to customers. Posters which showed a hygiene checklist for caterers were also distributed to act as reminders.

Under this new programme, four important messages were emphasised – Good Personal Hygiene, a Clean and Tidy Cooking Area, Safe and Hygienic Food, and Proper Food Storage.The A.C.E. in Hygiene programme implemented by the Central Regional Office aimed to educate and raise awareness of personal and food hygiene in the community.
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