SFA licenses food businesses such as restaurants, snack counters, supermarkets, eating houses, mobile food wagons, food caterers and food stalls in hawker centres and eating houses. SFA also licenses cooked food stalls in temporary fairs. Licensees have to ensure the proper upkeep of the premises and the safe handling of food.
SFA conducts regular inspections of these food establishments and adopts a risk-based approach where the inspection frequency is determined by risk profiles such as premises type, risk level of food sold, past infringements and implication in food poisoning incidents. Enforcement action will be taken if companies are found to have violated SFA’s food safety regulations.
Online food sellers and Home-Based Food Businesses (HBFBs) do not require a licence from SFA. Online food sellers have the responsibility to ensure that the food they sell are obtained from SFA-regulated sources and are prepared/processed in a safe and hygienic manner that does not compromise food safety.
Points Demerit System
SFA administers a Points Demerit System (PDS) for food retail businesses, which is used to manage the suspension and cancellation of licences for food safety infringements. All licensees and their food handlers have a responsibility to ensure that the food sold is clean and safe for consumption. They must observe good personal hygiene and food safety practices at all times. Under Section 99 of the Environmental Public Health Act, a licence may be suspended or cancelled if a licensee violates the Act or the Regulations made under the Act.
PDS also seeks to motivate licensees to improve their food safety standards. Under the PDS, offences are categorised according to its impact on food safety. Offences which are assessed to pose higher risk of food contamination and have greater impact on food safety are accorded more demerit points, whereas those which have less direct impact on food safety or are more administrative in nature are accorded fewer, or no demerit point.
Food safety offences fall into the following categories:
- Minor offences - 0 demerit point
- Major offences - 4 demerit points
- Serious offences - 6 demerit points
If a licensee accumulates 12 demerit points or more within 12 months, his licence will either be suspended for two to four weeks, or be cancelled, depending on his past record of suspension. Demerit points are dated to when the offence was committed and not the date of conviction or the date of payment of composition fines. A list of offences and their corresponding demerit points can be found here. With effect from 1 April 2020, higher penalties will also be imposed on lapses detected in toilets. More details on the revised PDS can be found here.
To encourage operators to place greater emphasis on the overall food safety standards of the premises, PDS applies to main licensees such as main operators of coffee shops, food courts, and canteens as well. If a main licensee accumulates 12 demerit points or more within 12 months, his licence will either be suspended for 1, 2 or 3 days, depending on his past record of suspensions.
During the period of suspension, all individual stalls within the coffee shop, food court or canteen are required to be closed as well. Food handlers and Food Hygiene Officers are also required to re-attend and pass the Food Safety Course Level 1 and Level 3 respectively.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How are the offences categorised into minor (0 demerit points), major (4 demerit points) and serious (6 demerit points)?
- The offences are categorised based on the nature of the offence and impact on food safety. Offences that are assessed to pose higher risk of food contamination and have greater impact on food safety are accorded more demerit points. For instance, offences such as pest infestation and untrained food handlers are serious offences and are assigned 6 demerit points; failure to protect food in covered receptacle or the stacking of crockery in manners which contaminate food are major offences and are given 4 points.
- What are the considerations in setting 12 demerit points as the suspension trigger?
- The PDS was introduced as a systematic approach to manage suspension and cancellation of licences for food safety infringements. It also seeks to motivate licensees to improve their food safety standards. With 12 points as the suspension trigger, licensees are given room to make improvements to their food safety practices following their first offence, and prevent further offences and eventual suspension.
- Why are the implicated food handlers and Food Hygiene Officers required to re-attend and pass the WSQ Food Safety Course Level 1 and the WSQ Food Safety Course Level 3 respectively during PDS suspension?
- Re-attending the Food Safety Courses serves to re-educate the implicated food handlers and Food Hygiene Officers with the necessary food safety knowledge and practices, so as to ensure that they remain vigilant and exercise their responsibility in upholding food safety standards.
- Why are higher penalties imposed on lapses detected in toilets?
- With effect from 1 April 2020, NEA and SFA have enhanced the penalties for lapses in public toilet cleanliness. Clean and well-maintained public toilets are a key aspect of public health, and this has gained increased importance amidst the COVID-19 situation. Clean toilets in eating establishments also help to ensure that food safety is not compromised.
- Public toilet owners/operators play an important role in maintaining high standards of toilet cleanliness and are reminded to ensure toilets are equipped with basic amenities such as liquid hand soap, toilet paper and litter bins.