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Food Hygiene Standards in Singapore

NEA regulates the food retail industry in Singapore to ensure that food sold at retail outlets is prepared hygienically and thus safe for consumption. This is important as Singapore has a reputation as a food paradise--from local hawker fare to international haute cuisine, there is no shortage of options to satisfy anyone's taste buds.

NEA licenses all food retail businesses, such as restaurants, cafes, snack bars, supermarkets, mobile food wagons and food caterers. Application forms for food retail businesses can be downloaded from our website. Additionally, NEA's Code of Practice on Environmental Health sets down guidelines addressing environmental health concerns in the design of food establishments.

[*NEW: NEA has announced the introduction of the Food Safety Management System (FSMS) to improve food hygiene standards in the food catering industry. From June 2014 onwards, all applicants for catering licences are required to submit a FSMS plan during licence application and renewal.]

Food Handlers

Food handlers, who are involved in the preparation and handling of food, such as chefs, cooks, kitchen helpers etc. need to be registered with NEA.

Food Hygiene Officers

A Food Hygiene Officer (FHO), helps to oversee and maintain high standards of hygiene and sanitation. Licensees of certain categories of food establishments are required to engage a FHO to regulate food hygiene in their premises.

Grading of Licensed Eating Establishments and Food Stalls

The Grading System for Eating Establishments and Food Stalls is a structured system of appraisal for food outlets. It was introduced to motivate licensees to improve and maintain good personal and food hygiene, and housekeeping of their premises. Retail food establishments are given a grade by NEA based on the overall hygiene, cleanliness and housekeeping standards of the premises. All food retail outlets are advised to display the certificate indicating their grade, enabling the public to make a more informed choice when patronizing food outlets.

Eating establishments and food stalls are assessed by NEA and given the following grades:

  • A - a score of 85% or higher
  • B - a score of 70% to 84%
  • C - a score of 50% to 69%
  • D - a score of 40% to 49%

NEA produced a Food Handler's Handbook to equip food handlers and licensees with basic knowledge of good hygiene practices. The handbook is available in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. NEA also developed a set of food hygiene guidelines and educational materials to educate licensees and food handlers on good hygiene practices that they can adopt during food handling at their premises.

Points Demerit System

The points demerit system (PDS) is a systematic and fair approach in dealing with the suspension or revocation of licences. Under the PDS, demerit points are given for each public health offence that is convicted in court or compounded. Offences are categorised as

  • Minor offences - 0 demerit points
  • Major offences - 4 demerit points
  • Serious offences - 6 demerit points

If a licensee accumulates 12 demerit points or more within 12 months, his licence will either be suspended for 2 weeks or 4 weeks, or be revoked, depending on past suspension records. Please see Annex A below for a list of offences with revised demerit points with effect from 1 Apr 2014.

In 30 November 2010, the PDS was also introduced to include operators of coffeeshops, food courts and canteens.

With effect from 1 March 2013, the PDS for main operators of coffeeshops, food courts and canteens will be revised. Under the revised PDS, the threshold for the suspension of licence is adjusted to 12 points instead of 24 points.

If the main operator of a coffeeshop, food court or canteen accumulates 12 demerit points or more within 12 months, his licence will be suspended for up to 3 days. When the suspension takes place, all the individual stalls within the food establishment will also have to close.

With effect from 1 April 2014, the demerit points for food hygiene offences will be revised. The review is to establish the risk of the hygiene offences and its impact on food safety. As such, offences which are assessed to be of high risk and impact on food safety are accorded more demerit points, whereas offences which are assessed to be of lower risk or are administrative in nature are accorded lower or no demerit point.

The revised demerit points will take effect from 1 April 2014 and will not affect offences which were committed prior to 1 April 2014.

Please refer to Annex A for the list of offences which will be affected by the review of demerit points. Please refer to the following for different languages:

More details of the revised PDS can be found here.

HDB/URA's Home Based Small Scale Business Scheme

The Home Based Small Scale Business Scheme by HDB and URA allows residents to carry out activities in their HDB and private residential premises to supplement their income. Under this scheme, residents can prepare small quantities of food for sale without turning their residences into a commercial outlet. A licence is not required from NEA. Nonetheless, residents preparing food under the scheme can refer to these guidelines on good hygiene tips to adopt.

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