RQA Insight – A snapshot of the Singapore food industry

RQA Insight – A snapshot of the Singapore Food Industry

What does Food Safety Look Like in Singapore?   Singapore is recognised as having many specific regulations with strict enforcement in place. The implementation and enforcement is something that consumers and investors have high confidence in. All food manufacturing companies are subject to regular inspections by regulatory bodies with defined standards and requirements established.

There is also a push for 3rd party certifications to be obtained to increase the food safety standards and to ensure due diligence. With the increasing food safety scares and knowledge of food safety among consumers globally, these standards provide some confidence in food safety in manufacturing but they are not universally adopted in Singapore.

Specifically, the internationally recognised standards under the Global Food Safety Initiative are certainly not new to the food industry in Singapore. However, the local regulations are not comparable to the GFSI schemes. Local regulatory standards focus on site implementation, enforcement, practices, licensing and permits; whereas GFSI have more prescriptive requirements.  The majority of the food manufacturers in Singapore range from small to medium scale manufacturing. Many of these organisations are family run and may have limited facilities and infrastructures. They may even lack food safety knowledge, practices and modern technologies. The food safety standards based on GFSI, are perceived by these companies as difficult to achieve and expensive to implement. They will only attempt to gain certification if a customer requires it. In order to assist SMEs in Singapore to better achieve such food safety standards, local standards like SS444: 2018 and SS590: 2013 have been developed. These standards fill the gaps for companies that are keen to have certification but feel that they do not want or could not achieve those global standards.

SS444: 2018 adopts the basic HACCP requirements, mainly from the Codex Alimentarius.  This standard can be accredited by the Singapore Accreditation Council. Whereas SS590: 2013 is drafted in a similar structure to, and is a modified adoption of ISO22000.  SS5990: 2013 is accredited by Singapore Accreditation Council and will condition endusers to the certification and auditing framework of ISO 22000, which makes it easier for companies to adopt the ISO 22000 in the future.

 Example of recalls reported in Singapore by AVA in 2018:
• Peanut butter recalled due to metal screw found in product (May 2018)
• Mould found in jam pancake
• High levels of pesticide in lettuce
• Bacteria in infant formula
• Spread potentially contaminated with pest droppings
• Contaminated coffee
• Microbiological contamination of frozen vegetables

What Challenges does Singapore’s Food Industry Face?

The Singapore food manufacturing industry has prospered over the years and is expected to continue growing, however, challenges remain in such a small country. These challenges include productivity and manpower issues which affect the labour cost, production cost, rental cost etc. There is also a lack of skilled labour and professionals unlike other industries like electronics or engineering. The lack of skilled workers put local companies in a weaker strategic position compared to their competitors, deterring them from wanting or having the capability to expand locally or regionally.  Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of the food consumed and are dependent on the overseas market. It is therefore exposed to the challenges of the global food industry. With rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, climate change that threatens farming and our food production sectors, there is an impact on increasing food supply and cost.  This also includes
foodborne and antimicrobial resistant pathogens that pose challenges to food safety. Increasingly complex supply chains also exacerbate food risks.  With the free information flow and opinion exchange on social media, news etc there is a greater demand from consumers for more transparency and information on the food that they are eating. The rapid rate of technological advancement and emergence of disruptive technologies add further pressure to both businesses and regulators. Consumers are also getting more and more health conscious and have been getting more
demanding on the nutritional aspects of the food they eat.

Summary:

International food manufacturers looking to source products from Singapore will find an active and growing food industry that is forward looking alongside a new food agency with a remit to strengthen the food safety regime and facilitate business-friendly regulations. The Agency will also have a focus on the management of food-bourne diseases including tighter coordination of product tracing and product recall.  Whilst globally recognised food safety standards may not always be attainable by local producers, there are local standards in place to provide a food safety focus in production; recognising there is always more to be done. When sourcing products, it is always the responsibility of international food manufacturers or retailers to carry out thorough assessments during the procurement process. Having an understanding of the developing food safety scene in Singapore should help with this process.

If you would like to find out more about RQA Group’s work in Asia and how we can help, please email us at enquiries@rqa-group.com or call us on +44 (0)118 935 7242.

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RQA Insight – Singapore Food Industry