Stiffer fines among tougher penalties introduced for food poisoning cases: NEA, AVA

Stiffer fines among tougher penalties introduced for food poisoning cases: NEA, AVA

Food establishments involved in “significant food poisoning incidents” will now face higher penalties and prosecution in court, authorities said on Friday (Dec 21). Some companies have also engaged private consultants to help with internal audits. Deborah Wong finds out what these reviews entail.

SINGAPORE: Food establishments involved in “significant food poisoning incidents” will now face higher penalties and prosecution in court, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the AgriFood & Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a joint press release on Friday (Dec 21).

Fines for such offences will be increased, it said. 

In addition, more food operators who commit offences, particularly those involving serious hygiene lapses, will face prosecution in court under the relevant legislation.

"These include the Environment Public Health (Food Hygiene) Regulations, the Sale of Food Act, or the Environment Public Health Act which carries a maximum penalty of a fine of S$10,000 for a first offender, and in the case of a repeat offender, a fine of S$20,000 or imprisonment of 3 months or both," the agencies said. 

“In appropriate cases, NEA and AVA will also press for deterrent sentences to be imposed by the court."

These measures, effective immediately, will form part of the measures to “align regulatory framework including penalties and enhance regulatory oversight over all food related matters from farm to fork with the aim to further strengthening our food safety regime”.

NEW RETRAINING REQUIREMENT FOR FOOD HYGIENE OFFICERS

The release also announced that food establishments which have their licences suspended will be required to send its Food Hygiene Officers (FHO) for retraining, as well as pass the WSQ Conduct Food & Beverage Hygiene Audit course.

“A suspended food establishment must have a properly trained and qualified FHO before any lifting of the suspension will be considered,” it said. 

“This will strengthen the overall supervision of food operations at these premises.”

NEA and AVA also said that it will soon complete the stepped-up checks on food establishments that provide catering services and premises with substantial catering operations. 

These inspections, which take place in addition to regular checks that take place throughout the year, will be completed by the end of the year. 

“Regular year-end advisories to food operators have been issued to remind them to adhere to good hygiene practices during food preparation and handling,” the authorities said.

NEA also met with representatives from the Association of Catering Professionals Singapore and the Restaurant Association of Singapore to “further reinforce the importance of food hygiene and safety”.

“NEA and AVA take a serious view of any hygiene lapses that may directly or indirectly result in food poisoning incidents,” the release said. 

“Following the recent food poisoning incidents, the authorities will continue to place implicated premises under close surveillance and work with them to improve their food hygiene practices.

"To further safeguard public health and strengthen our food safety regime, both NEA and AVA have been and will continue to progressively tighten the penalty regime for food hygiene offences, especially by food establishments involved in significant food poisoning incidents."

Source: CNA/ga(rw)

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