SINGAPORE: A viral video emerging from Tekka Hawker Centre has sparked widespread public discussion regarding the regulations imposed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) concerning cleanliness in public dining areas.
The TikTok video, which was posted on Friday, 13 October, features a diner, identified as Pankaj, challenging two supposed NEA enforcement officers on the specifics of new public dining cleaning regulations.
In May 2021, the NEA mandated that diners at public places must clear their tables of used trays, crockery, and litter after meals, in line with Section 17(1) of the Environmental Public Health Act (EPHA).
Offences under this section could invite a range of penalties, including fines up to S$2,000.
As of 1 June 2023, first-time offenders who don’t return their used items will receive a written warning, second-time offenders will be slapped with a S$300 composition fine, and further offences could incur court fines.
However, the recently surfaced video has unveiled a potential discrepancy or misinterpretation in these rules.
Pankaj is seen questioning the NEA officers about the extent of the diner’s responsibility in cleaning the table, particularly concerning food or drink spillages.
While Pankaj and several netizens believed the mandate only required diners to clear solid waste and return trays and utensils, the officers insisted that diners should also wipe the table clean of any spills.
The heated exchange between Pankaj and the officers revolves around the clarification and perhaps the ambiguity of the guidelines, “Are you saying to me that if I dirty the table, I am supposed to wipe the table?”
Pankaj was recorded saying. The officers affirmed, adding that it is indeed the responsibility of diners to ensure the table is clear and clean after their meal.
The viral footage has ignited a flurry of reactions online, with numerous netizens expressing astonishment and confusion over the cleaning requirements.
Many were under the impression that the NEA’s regulations simply required them to return trays and dispose of litter, not to clean spillages.
Several comments pointed out practical issues, such as a lack of cleaning materials available to diners, “What happens if we don’t have any tissues especially men..men usually don’t have tissues w them..how to clean?” queried one user.
Others used sarcasm to vent their frustrations and disbelief, “Normally at the hawker centre after I eat I will sweep, mop the floor and wash the dishes,” a netizen quipped.
Interestingly, a review of previous NEA announcements and news reports, including a joint press release on 30 August 2021, reveals no explicit mention of the obligation for diners to wipe tables clean of spillages, indicating a possible miscommunication or misinterpretation of the regulations in place.
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