Stay vigilant ahead of festive season: Singapore Food Agency
As food poisoning is more likely during this period, good hygiene is paramount
With food poisoning incidents more likely to occur during the festive period, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) yesterday reminded operators and consumers to be vigilant and to practise good food, personal and environmental hygiene.
A significant number of gastroenteritis incidents tend to occur during the October to March period, the agency said, as more people dine out, order catered food and purchase ready-to-eat and cooked food.
In particular, consumers should be aware that every catered meal carries an inherent risk as the food is prepared in bulk and in advance.
Last November and December, more than 600 people were affected by four major outbreaks involving four establishments.
One victim, a 38-year-old Sats officer, died.
The authorities did not find any link among the four cases but identified hygiene lapses at the establishments involved.
In June, Delizio Catering's food hygiene rating was downgraded after 18 people fell ill from consuming food it provided to a Christmas party last year.
And just last week, the licence of Taj Catering was suspended after one person was hospitalised and 28 others fell ill.
With the upcoming festive period, SFA yesterday issued an advisory to all food operators to ensure food hygiene and safety, reminding food retail establishments to ensure all their food handlers have attended the requisite basic hygiene training and are registered.
"Food operators must also ensure that they have adequate capacity to handle their orders and maintain a proper system to manage the orders that they take on during this festive period, including for take-out services, to ensure that food hygiene and public health are not compromised," it added.
SFA said it will be stepping up inspections of licensees that provide catering services and premises with substantial catering operations.
It is also engaging key representatives from the Association of Catering Professionals Singapore, the Restaurant Association of Singapore and the Singapore Hotel Association.
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People should eat the prepared food as soon as possible within the "consume by" time and they should engage only licensed caterers, whose track records are available on SFA's website.
The Ministry of Health estimates that 69 per cent of the gastroenteritis incidents here were due to consuming contaminated food items, while the remaining 31 per cent were transmitted from person to person or through contact with contaminated environments.
The SFA said places serving more vulnerable groups, such as pre-schools, should exercise good and appropriate cleaning practices to prevent the spread of gastroenteritis.