NEA wants tighter measures to ensure food safety

PHOTO: NEA wants tighter measures to ensure food safety

SINGAPORE - The National Environment Board (NEA) today highlighted the importance of Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) as a tool for caterers to prevent cross contamination during food preparation.

As such, NEA called for the food industry to incorporate FSMS into its hygiene regimes.

An FSMS is a programme that documents food safety procedures, and identifies and controls food safety hazards at every stage of the catering process - including food storage, preparation, cooking and delivery.

The call was especially directed towards caterers as they typically serve large numbers of people at the same time, and hence any lapses on their part have the potential to cause a major food poisoning outbreak, NEA said.

NEA added that the large amount of food being prepared also means that the threat of cross contamination, where harmful bacteria is transferred from one person/place to another, is higher in the premises of caterers.

Cross contamination is recognised by food safety experts worldwide to be one of the primary causes of food poisoning, NEA said.

While safety measures are often undertaken to ensure food hygiene, such practices are commonly communicated by management to staff via training and regular verbal reminders.

An FSMS requires all the practices in the catering process to be documented, ensuring that the standards are more consistently applied and the management has a better overview of the operations.

Lapses or poor practices will thus be spotted and rectified more easily, NEA said, and adding this extra step would allow for better quality control, especially for large-scale operations.

Mr Tai Ji Choong, NEA's Director for Environmental Health, said that they are planning to introduce simplified templates that can be easily used by any caterer interested to introduce FSMS in their operations.

Mr James Wong, President of Association of Catering Professionals (ACAPS) said he believes adopting FSMS will ultimately benefit businesses by increasing customer confidence in their food safety standards.

The call was made during a seminar for caterers to share best practices and promote higher food hygiene standards.

NEA said that their officers will also explain the benefits of FSMS to caterers during their routine inspections.