NEA steps up efforts as more than 2,450 fines are issued this year
THE National Environment Agency (NEA) has issued 2,456 fines and suspended 17 food outlets for hygiene lapses since the start of the year. The action comes amid renewed efforts by the agency to enforce better hygiene standards, including conducting a refresher course on hygiene for licensed food handlers, launched on Oct 5. Last year, contaminated rojak sold at the Geylang Serai market led to two deaths and 154 others falling ill. That same year, NEA issued 2,650 citations for infractions ranging from not using gloves to handle food, to selling contaminated food.
Ms Wong Chiu Ying, operations head of NEA’s Environmental Health Department, said the agency had stepped up its checks since it hired 28 more officers to supplement the existing team of 63 for the 33,059 licensed food outlets here. NEA will also require more than 100,000 licensed food handlers to take a four-hour-long hygiene refresher course in batches every three years – instead of just one basic food hygiene course in
The course will be rolled out progressively to all food handlers, with food caterers first, and school canteen vendors slated for the second phase. This will be on top of the seven-hour long basic food hygiene course they must pass to receive a licence from the NEA. The $35 course is currently administered by the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East in Simei Avenue, which has classes in English and Mandarin.
Participants must listen to a presentation on safe food preparation and pass a multiple-choice quiz.
Mr William Oh, 30, an operations executive at ISS Catering Services, was one of those who attended the refresher session yesterday. “I had forgotten about 20 per cent of what I had learnt in the basic food hygiene course in 2004,” he said. “The lecture helped me to remember some key hygiene concepts better.” But some hawkers like Mr Michael Tan, 45, who operates a sugarcane stall at Albert Centre, said the class may be difficult for those who are not literate. He said in Mandarin. “Older hawkers in their 60s and 70s may face more difficulties in passing, even though they understand what the concepts are.”
Dr Lionel Lau, director of ITE College East’s school of applied and health sciences, said the language barrier is an issue it is trying to work out. He said: “We have plans to roll out a course in Malay in the coming months,
and hopefully one in Tamil later on.”