Imported fruit and vegetables was the category with the highest percentage of non-compliances during testing in 2019, according to authorities in Singapore.

A total of 3,825 consignments of fruit and vegetables were sampled from April to December 2019 with 491 failing, meaning 87.2 percent passed the Singapore Food Agency’s (SFA) standards. Sample failures were because of exceeding allowable limits, either microbiologically, chemically or for pesticide residues. Singapore imports more than 90 percent of its food.

Seafood products was the second least compliant category as 58 samples failed from 1,242 tests followed by processed food that had 67 non-compliances from 2,189 samples.

Meat and egg results
Overall, 114 meat and meat product samples failed from 7,010 consignments and 14 samples of processed eggs were in violation of the rules from 882 consignments sampled and tested. Chicken and quail eggs were sampled and tested from July to December 2019 with only three of 190 consignments failing the SFA’s standards.

For food products that fail tests, SFA rejects the consignments and requires importers to rectify the issue with their suppliers from overseas. Offenders who illegally import food are liable on conviction to a maximum fine of SGD $50,000 (U.S. $35,900) and/or imprisonment for up to two years.

SFA publishes food safety statistics in January and June to improve the public’s understanding of the agency’s methods to protect public health. It adopts a risk-based approach to food safety and is guided by science-based risk assessment and management. This means food of higher risks are subject to more stringent checks.

Local regulation
Non-retail type establishments were found to have the most non-compliances with 254 issues from 4,041 inspections. Almost 1,400 checks detected non-compliances from 52,000 retail sites and nine problems were found from 2,162 inspections at farms. Non-compliances included poor housekeeping and upkeep of the premises, poor maintenance of equipment and pest infestation.

From April to December 2019, 22 of 34 investigated gastroenteritis incidents were due to foodborne causes. Sixteen food recalls were issued; nine due to microbial contamination, five because of allergens and two owing to physical contaminants.

In June this year, Elite Fine Food LLP, an importer and supplier of foods, was fined SGD $2,000 (U.S. $1,400) for operating and storing meat and seafood products in an unlicensed cold store. In December 2019, officers from the SFA found the company had been storing meat and seafood products in this cold store with a chiller and freezer. More than 1,000 kilograms of frozen and chilled meat and seafood products, including processed pork, duck and beef, were seized.

Offenders who illegally store meat and fish products are liable on conviction to a maximum fine of SGD $10,000 (U.S. $7,200) and/or imprisonment for up to one year.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)