From 1 March, all new traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) shops that intend to serve food or beverages will need to apply for a licence for on-site areas dedicated to preparing them, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a press release on Thursday (25 January).
Existing TCM shops that intend to continue serving food or beverages – such as herbal tea and tea-leaf eggs – and have food preparation areas will have until March next year to apply for the licence.
The NEA, along with the Singapore Chinese Druggist Association (SCDA) and other major chain operators, found that there are more than 300 existing TCM shops in Singapore that house such areas.
Conversely, shops that do not serve food or beverages, or have decided not to continue doing so, are not required to apply for the licence.
The shops’ on-site preparation areas are required to comply with the design and infrastructural requirements as stipulated in the Code of Practice for Environmental Health (COPEH) for food retail, said the NEA.
To obtain a licence, these shops must meet basic requirements such as having a piped water inlet and waste water outlet in the food preparation area.
“Other COPEH requirements could be waived on a case by case basis until such time the premises undergo major renovations. NEA will also be sharing our design and operational guidelines with existing operators on how they can ensure hygienic food preparation in their current premises,” added the agency.
Separately, all food handlers involved in the preparation of food and beverages must attend and pass the Basic Food Hygiene Course (BFHC), said the NEA. The course equips food handlers with the necessary knowledge to handle and prepare food safely and hygienically.
“While there have not been major incidents linked to food or drinks from TCM shops, there is always a risk that food preparation activities, if not done hygienically, can pose risks to public health, such as that of food poisoning,” said the NEA.
The NEA has also engaged SCDA and TCM shops on the proposal to license the on-site preparation of herbal tea and food at such premises, so as to ensure the hygienic preparation of these products and to strengthen food hygiene standards.
It has reviewed and incorporated feedback and suggestions given by the industry, such as “offering a longer compliance time-line for existing premises and aligning the licensing requirements to be comparable to those of food shops with similar simple set-ups, for example, those selling bubble tea”.
NEA said that it will be reaching out to TCM operators in the coming months to work with them on ensuring that they comply with hygiene requirements.
TCM operators can find out more information on licensing requirements here.