The recent horse meat contamination scandal put the spotlight on the global food trade. The New Paper finds out where our food comes from and the safety measures the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority takes.
SINGAPORE - From neighbouring Thailand and Indonesia to as far away as Argentina and Uruguay, 90 per cent of the food that lands up on our plates is flown in from around the globe.
Last year, the majority of our food imports (such as eggs, chicken and fruit) came from Malaysia, Brazil, and Australia, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) in response to queries from The New Paper. The list also includes Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Diversifying Singapore's food supply enables the Republic to avoid over-reliance on a single country, ensuring an unwavering supply and avoiding the possibility of a potential food shortage, said the AVA.
However, that is not to say that local food supply has been neglected. While one of the AVA's mission statements is to "ensure a resilient supply of safe food", another of its main focuses is to "facilitate agri-trade (in Singapore)".
That is why the AVA has been working closely with local farmers to raise their capability through good management practices and promoting local produce to consumers.
The AVA also supports research and development in local food farming technology through an initiative called the "Food Fund", which encourages local farmers to upgrade and adopt processes such as automation and mechanisation to maximise productivity.
While Singapore cannot expect to be fully self sufficient, in the near future the AVA aims to achieve varying levels of self-sufficiency in the three key food items - eggs (30 per cent), fish (15 per cent) and leafy vegetables (10 per cent) .
Currently, production levels are at 25 per cent for eggs, 8 per cent for fish and 7 per cent for leafy vegetables.
Since food can be contaminated anywhere along the production chain, the AVA adopts a holistic system based on risk analysis, import control, inspection and laboratory testing.
A 'Farm-to-Fork' approach ensures that food safety is assured from start to end.
This includes evaluating the countries' animal health status, the rules in place for control of animal diseases and the veterinary infrastructure.
For example, all imported meat and meat products have to come from AVA-accredited sources. The AVA also assesses the establishments to ensure sanitation, hygiene, health management and diseases surveillance programmes meet international standards.
As part of the AVA's routine surveillance, samples of imported food products are also regularly tested to detect potential chemical contaminants.
Some examples of these are pesticide residues, drug residues (like antibiotics and hormones) and microbial hazards such as Salmonella.
Food products not adhering to the requirements will not be allowed for sale.
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