New food safety licensing regime for food outlets to start from 2023: SFA

SINGAPORE – 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 on Monday (Oct 25).

Other than their track record, such as not having major food safety lapses over a period of time, the multi-year framework will take into account whether eateries appoint food hygiene officers, among other things.

An estimated 23,000 food establishments will come under the Safety Assurance for Food Establishments (Safe) framework from Jan 1, 2023, across retail and non-retail food establishments, 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, the old grading system will be replaced with bronze, silver and gold awards.

These awards will correspond to a three, five, or 10-year licence duration. The higher the award tier, the longer the duration.

SFA’s deputy chief executive Tan Lee Kim said the new framework takes into account ongoing performance, compared with an annual grading audit which provides a “snapshot reflection” of a food establishment’s food 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.

SFA announced the intention to revamp the food licensing regime last year.

The criteria to get an award also varies with the category that the food establishment is under.

Those with significant food handling practices with higher food safety risks are placed in category A, while those with moderate practices with lower risks are placed under category B.

For example, category A establishments such as caterers, restaurants and food manufacturers will need to go two years without a major lapse before being awarded with bronze. They will also have to appoint a food hygiene officer.

The food establishment with moderate practices with lower risks are placed under Category B. ST PHOTO: SAMUEL ANG

New establishments or those who have gone less than two years without a major lapse in category A will be awarded with a one-year licence and will not have an award tier. They will also need to appoint a food hygiene officer.

Category C establishments, which are those involved with minimal food handling and have negligible food safety risks, will not be given any awards, but will be given licences.

For example, to get a five-year licence, these establishments, like operators of foodcourts and supermarkets, will need to have a clean record for three years.

To support the framework, SFA said it has also implemented a training framework comprising four levels known as the Food Safety Courses (FSC).

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 next year of their award tiers based on their track record of food safety assurance, said SFA.

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