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Change in rules for refresher courses for food handlers

From Oct, food handlers working at premises licensed by the National Environment Agency must attend their first refresher training after five years instead of three, and subsequent refresher courses, once every 10 years.

SINGAPORE: Following a review, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has announced changes in the rules for training and assessments for food handlers working in 34,000 NEA-licensed premises. NEA said on Wednesday (Sep 3) that from Oct 1, food handlers will have to undergo their first refresher training five years after their Basic Food Hygiene Course instead of three. They will then have to attend subsequent refresher courses at 10-year-intervals instead of once every three years.

If they are confident of passing the test without refresher training, they will have the option to do so. Pictorials have been added to theory assessment and multiple choice questions to make them easier to understand. Food handlers with low literacy levels also have the choice of taking an oral test.

The refresher training will now come under the Singapore Workforce Development Agency's (WDA) Food & Beverage Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Framework. And all food handlers working in NEA-licensed premises are required to go through refresher training at WDA's approved training organisations, when the Food & Beverage WSQ course starts running from Oct 1.

Lower-income Singaporeans who qualify for the Workfare Training Support scheme will enjoy course fee subsidies of up to 95 per cent, with the lowest course fee being below S$10.

NEA said the review of the refresher training took into consideration high passing rates and that the food handlers were "generally familiar with proper hygiene practice". It said despite the latest rule changes, it will still recognise refresher training certificates awarded since Oct 2010.

The authority said it will keep up regular inspections of food retail outlets and will come down hard on errant food handlers. Those implicated in food poisoning incidents or who work in food premises whose licenses have been suspended for multiple hygiene violations will be required to attend re-training and assessment before they are allowed to return to work, NEA stated.