NCFS scientist crunching data to ensure safe food for all.
The NCFS, established in April 2019 together with the inauguration of the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), is the cornerstone of our nation’s food safety regime. On top of testing of food to support enforcement of food regulations in Singapore, NCFS also runs a science and risk-based market monitoring programme. This programme uses food sampling and testing data to monitor the safety of food available in our market, as well as to identify potential food safety risks. Food that is of higher risk is subjected to more stringent checks and tests for food borne hazards. This enables SFA to take appropriate action to safeguard food safety in Singapore.
NCFS scientist carrying out food safety testing.
While routine regulatory sampling led to the detection of excessive aflatoxins present in peanut products and the eventual recall of such products, data-driven analysis played a critical role in the investigation process. It was through data analysis that a notable trend of aflatoxin contamination in peanut and peanut products from specific sources was detected. This helped the investigation team zoom in on the source of the issue, leading SFA to work with the industry to diversify the source of peanut supplies and improve their internal food safety systems such as self-directed voluntary testing and intensified surveillance.
Tools of the Trade
To effectively deploy data science into their workflow, NCFS scientists make use of a variety of tools, including statistical software (SPSS), programming languages (Python and R) and data visualisation tools (PowerBI and Tableau).
Such tools not only help to speed up processes and provide early-warning alerts for potential food safety issues, they also empower scientists and staff at NCFS to monitor a wider variety of traditional and non-traditional data sources, ranging from scientific literature and test results from external laboratories, to social media posts and even public feedback.
For example, by using textual analysis, NCFS is now able to identify food establishments with multiple and frequent public feedback related to food safety. This enables SFA to step up targeted inspections of food establishments, as well as identify and prevent foodborne outbreaks at the earliest opportunity.
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Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020