New licensing regime for food establishments to be introduced
To be introduced from 2023, framework will provide better food safety assurance
A new licensing regime for food establishments will be introduced from 2023 to provide better assurance of food safety to consumers, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said yesterday.
The framework will take into account not only the establishments' track records, such as not having major food safety lapses over a period of time, but also other factors including the appointment of food hygiene officers.
An estimated 23,000 food establishments, both retail and non-retail, will come under the Safety Assurance for Food Establishments framework that is expected to kick in from Jan 1, 2023, said SFA in its statement.
Food establishments include caterers, restaurants, bakeries and food manufacturers.
They are currently graded either A, B, C or D, based on an annual assessment of their premises' food safety performance.
With the new framework, this grading system will be replaced with bronze, silver and gold awards. The awards will correspond with a three-, five-, or 10-year licence duration.
The higher the award tier, the longer the duration.
New licensees or those that have less than two years without a major lapse will be given a one-year licence with no award.
SFA deputy chief executive Tan Lee Kim said the new framework takes into account ongoing performance, compared with an annual grading audit that provides a "snapshot reflection" of a food establishment's safety and hygiene standards.
"This is a better representation of the food establishment's consistent efforts in food safety assurance and can enable consumers to make better informed choices," said Dr Tan, who is also director-general for food administration.
The criteria to get an award also varies with the category the food establishment is under.
Those involved in food handling practices with higher risks, such as those in Category A, will have to fulfil more requirements under the framework, such as appointing a food hygiene officer, before getting a desired award tier.
To support the framework, SFA said it has also implemented a training framework comprising four levels known as the Food Safety Courses.
Food establishments will be given sufficient time to implement the necessary requirements, such as attending these courses if needed, to attain the desired award tier when the framework is implemented in 2023.
They will be notified in 2022 of their award tiers based on their track record of food safety assurance, said SFA.
Professor William Chen, director of the Nanyang Technological University's food science and technology programme, said the current system is rigid, as an outlet may do very well during the inspection, but if there are any hygiene issues, the downgrading is not immediate.
He said: "The new framework takes into consideration a real-time response to the incident.
"Another advantage is there is a reward system.
"When people pay attention to food safety matters and perform well, they also get rewarded with a longer licensing period."
Restaurant Association of Singapore president Andrew Kwan said the new system would eliminate the additional and repetitive administrative process with constant renewal of licences.
He said: "Perhaps operators could be assisted and supported prior to roll-out of the new system, to ensure they have robust food hygiene management systems and regular in-house training to build and maintain best-in-class hygiene standards."