Singapore is making progress on a revised grading system for assessing the food safety performance of establishments.

The Safety Assurance for Food Establishments (SAFE) framework will consider an establishment’s track record and food safety management systems. It will also harmonize the grading systems for retail and non-retail food outlets, which are currently regulated by two frameworks.

Officials said the current system provides a snapshot of performance at the point of inspection and may not adequately reflect whether food safety standards are consistently maintained. Under this system establishments are rated from A to D based on an annual audit.

“In line with our risk-based approach, establishments involved in significant food handling with a large distribution scale, such as food manufacturers and caterers, will need to meet additional requirements to attain higher grades than smaller scale ones. Establishments with poor food safety performance and lower grades will face more frequent inspections. Poor performance during these inspections could lead to downgrading,” said Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment.

Fu said the SAFE Framework was an improved version of what was announced in 2021.

“The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) incorporated feedback it has received from the industry and kept the intent of recognizing food establishments with a consistent record of good food safety performance, and spurring others to achieve and maintain high grades of food safety,” she said at the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE)’s Committee of Supply debate.

Risk-based actions
Citing a risk-based approach, Singapore plans to remove licensing requirements and fees on food establishments with minimal food safety risks.

By January 2025, all market stalls and vending machines selling non-food or low-risk food items, such as canned food and packed biscuits, will not need to be licensed. This policy change will affect more than half of existing market stall licensees and around 2 in 5 vending machine licensees.

“The safety of food from these stalls and vending machines will continue to be regulated through standards imposed by SFA on the importers and suppliers of these food items,” said Fu.

Singapore imports more than 90 percent of its food. Recent approvals include eggs and live chickens from Indonesia and eggs from Turkey.

Singapore has designated 2024 as the Year of Public Hygiene, focusing on hygiene standards across four key areas: clean environment, safe food, clean air, and clean water.

A Food Safety and Security Bill will also be introduced to protect consumers better and safeguard the country’s food supply resilience. Industry discussions are ongoing, and a public consultation will be conducted in phases later this month.

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