Singapore toughens up cleanliness in public eateries
Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) is toughening up its enforcement of cleanliness at public food places, after a jump in complaints about filthy conditions.
Also, the number of tickets its inspectors issued for lapses has doubled in a year, rising from 131 to 236 for dirty toilets last year, and soaring from 28 to 49 for pest infestation. Messy tables are also a common complaint.
So from today, privately run foodcourts, canteens and coffee shops will have six demerit points slapped on them when NEA inspectors spot cockroaches or rats in the establishments.
When their operators chalk up 12 demerit points in a year, the place will be shut down for up to three days for a good and thorough cleaning. Previously, the punishment was meted out when they hit 24 demerit points.
Besides demerit points, the 2,300 or so operators of these places also face fines for every lapse in cleanliness or hygiene.
The tougher measures are "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," said NEA's director-general of public health Derek Ho yesterday.
On its part, the NEA will track more closely food outlets notorious for not keeping their toilets clean and/or their premises free of pests. Its inspectors will check on them at least six times every three months.
Eating out is a common activity among Singaporeans, and foodcourts, canteens and coffee shops are places they frequent.
A common complaint to the NEA is that the toilets are dirty or in "poor working condition".
Last year, it received 558 such complaints, up from 476 the previous year.
Other complaints ranged from pest infestations to dirty tables.
The NEA, in the meantime, had stepped up its inspection of these places since November 2011, a move that convinced it of the need to get operators to clean up.
So, throwing sewage into an open drain or failing to keep an area pest-free will carry the maximum fine of $400 and six demerit points.
Minor offences like failing to display the operating licence will incur a $200 fine and two demerit points.
With the change, demerit points from the past year will be erased so that operators start on a clean slate, said the NEA.
The new rules do not apply to food handlers, who are governed by a separate set of rules. As for hawker centres, NEA manages them and contracts cleaning firms to maintain the common areas.
Operators like Food Junction are not worried about the change.
"Tightening the regulations will benefit our customers. We have always been practising NEA's guidelines," said Ms Claudine Tay, customer relations manager for Food Junction Group which operates 12 foodcourts in Singapore.