The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) is to change how it ranks food outlets to focus more on track records than annual audit results.

The new licensing framework is called the Safety Assurance for Food Establishments (SAFE). An estimated 23,000 food sites will come under it beginning in January 2023.

Those that have demonstrated a good record of food safety assurance and have systems to ensure better safety standards will be eligible for longer licenses and higher award tiers.

Currently, establishments are graded either ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ or ‘D’ based on an annual assessment of food safety performance. A change to this system was announced in 2020.

In the SAFE program, outlets will be given bronze, silver or gold awards. Those that have a good track record, so no major food safety lapses over two, five or 10 years, and can meet other requirements, will qualify for the awards, which correspond to a 10 (gold), five (silver), or three (bronze) year license. New licensees or those with less than two years without a major issue will be given a one year license.

Examples of lapses include causing a foodborne outbreak, being convicted in court for offences against SFA’s regulations, or a suspension of the license.

Time to prepare
Establishments will be told in 2022 of their level based on their history of food safety assurance.

There are three categories of food establishments. Those in category A and B involve significant or moderate food handling practices such as caterers and bakeries while those in category C involve minimal food handling like supermarkets.

SFA has created a training program of four levels known as the Food Safety Courses. The breadth and depth of the curriculum increases as trainee’s progress.

Tan Lee Kim, deputy chief executive officer at SFA, said industry must also play a role in maintaining good food safety standards.

“The new SAFE framework takes into account the ongoing performance of food establishments, compared to an annual grading audit which provides a snapshot reflection of a food establishment’s food safety and hygiene standards. This is a better representation of the food establishment’s consistent efforts in food safety assurance and can enable consumers to make better informed choices,” she said.

“SFA has engaged industry associations when developing the SAFE framework and have taken their feedback into consideration. We will continue to work closely with the industry for the smooth implementation of the SAFE framework, so that we can maintain consistently high food safety standards in Singapore.”

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