SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) has tightened the cleanliness and hygiene point demerit system, reducing the threshold from 24 to 12 points to push for greater overall hygiene standards in food outlets.
From March 1 this year, coffeeshops, food courts and canteens will have their operations suspended if they chalk up 12 demerit points from cleanliness and hygiene lapses within 12 months.
NEA said it is also stepping up inspections in food outlets with poor track records to raise their cleanliness and hygiene standards.
Mr Derek Ho, NEA’s Director—General of Public Health said: "The tightening of the demerit system is aimed at encouraging operators to place greater emphasis on the overall hygiene standards of their premises, as part of our concerted efforts to ensure food safety for Singaporeans. It is in the interest of operators to ensure that their foodshop is kept clean at all times, in keeping with their customers’ expectations."
Common offences found at such premises include lapses in toilet cleanliness and maintenance, failure to keep premises free of pest infestation and not keeping the premises clean, for example, poor table cleaning and dirty dining areas.
Besides paying a fine for such infringements, operators of coffeeshops, food courts, and canteens also chalk up demerit points for each of these offences and face a three day suspension if they exceed the threshold set.
This point demerit system mirrors that for individual stallholders, who may similarly face suspensions if they accumulate demerit points for cleanliness and hygiene lapses.
NEA said approximately 2,300 operators of such premises have been informed of this change through letters.
Previous demerit points accumulated in the past year would also be erased so that every operator starts on a clean slate on March 1, 2013.
NEA will continue to inspect these establishments and educate operators on the importance of good housekeeping, proper pest surveillance and control and a regular toilet cleaning and maintenance programme to ensure their premises are clean and hygienic.
In November 2011, a frequent inspection regime was introduced, which sees operators with poor track records in toilet cleanliness or pest infestation checked at least six times every quarter.
The increase in inspections saw a doubling of tickets issued to operators for lapses in these areas.
From 2011 to 2012, the number of tickets issued to operators of coffeeshops, food courts and canteens for lapses in toilet cleanliness increased from 131 to 236. As for pest infestation, the number of tickets issued increased from 28 to 49.
Those who observe lapses in food outlets may contact NEA at the 24—hour hotline 1800—CALL NEA (1800—2255 632) or through the myENV mobile app available for iOS and Android.
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