All day and every day, officers from the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) fan out across the island as they work to ensure and secure a supply of safe food for Singapore.
To ensure and secure a robust supply of safe food, whether it is from our local farms or from overseas, a dedicated and well-coordinated team of SFA officers are hard at work every day.
We follow a few SFA officers as they go about their day.
Meet our SFA team:
(From top left, clockwise) Tan Jiawen, Senior Manager, SFA Southwest Regional Office; Siti Farhana Samsudin, Senior Executive, SFA East Regional Office; Yu Dingyi, Specialist Team Lead (Chemical Research); Hashakella Mohamed Yunos, Manager, SFA Central Regional Office; Fadhlina Suhaimi, Assistant Director, Urban Food Solutions; Thomas Chia, Account Manager, Industry Development and Community Partnership; Zakiah Amirah, Manager, SFA Southwest Regional Office; Wee Soon Bock, Manager, SFA Northwest Regional Office
6.30am, Lim Chu Kang: Thomas Chia, Account Manager, Industry Development and Community Partnership
Thomas at a ground-breaking ceremony for a new farm at Lim Chu Kang
Thomas is off to an early start at Lim Chu Kang, where a new vegetable farm is holding their ground-breaking ceremony. Thomas had assisted the farm in obtaining its Temporary Occupation Permit by liaising with the various regulatory agencies and facilitated the farm’s application for a SFA farming licence.
7am, Seah Im Road: Hashakella Mohamed Yunos, Manager, SFA Central Regional Office
Hashakella arrives at Seah Im Road to conduct a routine inspection on the food handlers hired by food establishments here. To ensure food safety, only workers who have attended and passed the Food Safety Course Level 1 are allowed to handle food. Workers without proper food handling knowledge pose a threat to food safety, and Hashakella’s early morning inspection helps ensure that food establishments comply with these requirements at all times.
8.30am, National Centre for Food Science (NCFS): Yu Dingyi, Specialist Team Lead (Chemical Research)
Dingyi’s team of scientists gather to discuss and assess the results of an ongoing research survey
Dingyi is deep in discussion with his team of scientists on one of their research surveys – the screening of mandarin oranges for chemical hazards. These surveys are aimed at identifying and targeting potentially unexpected hazards in food to provide early food safety alerts.
Dingyi then sets out compiling the technical information and data from these results, which will be used to conduct quick risk assessments, propose recommendations on follow up actions, as well as prepare the required technical reports to update the relevant divisions in SFA.
9am, cold rooms & warehouses in southwest Singapore, i.e., Tuas/Jurong Fishery Port/Chin Bee Industrial Estate: Tan Jiawen, Senior Manager, SFA Southwest Regional Office
In contrast to the sunny weather outside, Jiawen is busy conducting a regular inspection of imported food consignments in the icy conditions of a cold room in Tuas. He carefully collects food samples, keeping them cool with the dry ice on hand, to be sent back to the lab for testing. The samples need to meet SFA’s food safety standards before they can be released for sale. Otherwise, they are disposed to ensure that the contaminated food does not enter our market. Once done, he moves on to other cold rooms and warehouses in southwest Singapore.
10am, Yishun: Thomas
An important part of Thomas’ job involves “match-making” solutions providers to farmers to improve productivity and crop yield
Thomas has arranged a “match-making” session in Yishun, to introduce a water filtration specialist to a beansprout farmer. He joins in the meeting as the parties discuss adopting better technologies to improve water quality and in turn, the quality of the beansprout crop. This is as part of wider efforts to link up local agricultural businesses with solution providers to help farms tap on technology to improve productivity and yield, and grow more with less sustainably.
11am, Jurong West: Zakiah Amirah, Manager, SFA Southwest Regional Office
Zakiah inspects the premises of a food factory to ensure that food is produced in an environment that does not compromise food safety.
At a food processing facility along Quality Road, Zakiah conducts an inspection of the premises to check for non-compliances with the food safety regulations. Thereafter, she speaks with the quality assurance manager and production manager of the facility to share her findings.
12pm, Multi-storey Car Park (MSCP) at Jurong West: Wee Soon Bock, Manager, SFA Northwest Regional Office
Soon Bock inspects an urban farm atop a multi-storey car park
Soon Bock stands at the top floor of a Jurong West multi-storey car park in the sweltering heat. SFA has received a proposal for a farm to be set up at the location – one of several urban farms in Singapore set in alternative spaces – and he is there to conduct a pre-licensing inspection of the space. Together with a farm representative, he conducts checks on the proposed farming technology, peripheral equipment needed, and the farm layout, to ensure that good food safety measures are in place. Before leaving, Soon Bock also takes some time to share about SFA’s food safety requirements with the potential licensee.
1pm, Shimei East Kitchen: Siti Farhana Samsudin, Senior Executive, SFA East Regional Office
Siti Farhana speaking with staff of a food establishment
Over in the east, Siti Farhana is in the middle of a food safety inspection at SFA-licensed food establishments in Shimei East Kitchen. Many businesses here manufacture food for the local and overseas market, and it is imperative that good food safety practices are upheld.
2.30pm, NCFS: Jiawen
Jiawen passes the food samples he has collected over the course of his morning to SFA’s food science laboratories for food safety testing. He then leaves for his next task of the day – conducting investigations in response to feedback on the illegal import of food.
3.30pm, NCFS: Dingyi
As the afternoon continues, Dingyi works with his team to provide technical guidance on the day-to-day research operations, verify the laboratory analysis results, and assist in the troubleshooting of laboratory equipment where required. He also engages in discussion with the teams regularly to monitor the progress of existing research collaborations, and explore and evaluate new and emerging areas of research developments.
4pm, Animal and Plant Health Centre: Fadhlina Suhaimi, Assistant Director, Urban Food Solutions
(Top) Fadhlina speaks with a farmer to understand his technical challenges with crop management. (Bottom) Fadhlina in discussions with a scientist from NParks on the development of an automated plant scanner.
Fadhlina gathers with researchers to work on their ongoing project – the development of a plant scanner based on Hyperspectral Imaging technology to detect plant pest and disease early. Such a tool would be useful in addressing pest and disease outbreaks in indoor farms to reduce crop loss. The project is part of a cross-agency collaboration with the National Parks Board, and to ensure the technology is applicable in commercial indoor farm settings, industry’s input is key. Fadhlina shares her findings on farms’ needs and challenges with the team.
5pm, Sungei Tengah: Soon Bock
Soon Bock inspects a farm to ensure that locally grown crops are free of harmful pesticides and other contaminants
Soon Bock heads back to Sungei Tengah for a farm inspection. During the inspection, he checks that only SFA-registered pesticides are used. In addition, he takes food crop samples to be sent to the lab for food safety tests. They will be screened for contaminants such as pesticide residue, heavy metals, microbials, and mercury fumes.
6pm, Lim Chu Kang: Thomas
Thomas answers queries about the local farm industry from other agencies during a Learning Journey
Thomas ends his day with a farm visit, alongside representatives of various government agencies. Having been with SFA (and its predecessor agencies) for 40 years, he shares with them his extensive knowledge of the local farm industry, such as the different farm types. The information he provides are aimed at facilitating a review of regulations by the various agencies for a more robust agri-food sector.
7pm, SFA HQ, Jurong East: Fadhlina
Fadhlina at a Zoom meeting with A*STAR principal investigators
Back at the office, Fadhlina hops on an evening Zoom call with colleagues from A*STAR to continue discussions on the development of a modelling tool to estimate and analyse greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the agri-food sector. Apart from building the capability and capacity of the agri-food industry to produce 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs locally by 2030, sustainability is a key part of the 30 by 30 goal. Being able to measure GHG emissions from the sector would allow SFA and farmers to identify suitable mitigating measures to reduce GHG emissions.
8pm, Dingyi’s residence, West Singapore: Dingyi
Dingyi at a Zoom meeting with other international food science experts
Dingyi gets ready for a technical workshop via Zoom. Tonight, he has been invited as a domain expert, together with other international participants from the scientific community, for the technical sharing and exchange on nanoplastics work. As part of his work, Dingyi participates in discussions with international experts to build deeper expertise and exchange knowledge on food safety science.
10pm, Bukit Purmei: Hashakella
Following up on feedback on unsafe food storage practices, Hashakella makes a visit to a food establishment in a Bukit Purmei housing estate. Reiterating the importance of ensuring the safety of food served to customers, Hashakella sternly reminds the operator to adhere to proper food storage practices.
2am, Second Chin Bee Road: Zakiah
While most of Singapore sleeps, Zakiah gears up for a night inspection at a food factory which produces food for delivery in the morning. As the food produced here is distributed to a wide network, it is important that the food is safe for consumption. Zakiah thus conducts hygiene checks and food safety inspections to ensure compliance with food safety regulations.
4am, Bedok: Siti Farhana
Dawn might not be breaking for another two hours, but the recce that Siti Farhana and her colleague are conducting at a food manufacturing facility in Bedok is already in full swing. Recces such as these are crucial ahead of the actual operations, which in this case will involve an investigation into feedback on potentially unsafe food handling practices.
All in a Day’s Work
The work that the SFA team does is diverse and vital. No one day is mundane as we deal with the daily demands of our work. Individually, SFA officers may play different roles but collectively their efforts add up to a safer, more robust food supply for Singapore.
This feature on the lesser-known stories of SFA officers at work as we go about fulfilling our mission to ensure and secure a supply of safe food – sustainably - is in celebration of our parent ministry, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment’s, 50th anniversary this year.
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Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020