SINGAPORE: Proofer Bakery, a chain with 17 outlets across Singapore, received a fine of S$3,000 (US$2,240) from the court on 6 December for violating food safety regulations.
The fine stemmed from a failure to maintain cleanliness in its central kitchen, as discovered during an inspection conducted by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).
A representative for the bakery pleaded guilty to one count under the Sale of Food (Non-Retail Food Business) Regulations, specifically for neglecting to keep their licensed food establishment clean and well-maintained.
The inspection, carried out on 26 October 2021, at the company’s central kitchen located at 171 Kampong Ampat, revealed alarming food safety lapses.
SFA officers found dead mice in critical areas such as the dough processing room and the storage for raw ingredients.
Additionally, lapses in maintenance were observed, including a dirty trolley in the chiller area and poor upkeep of various equipment.
SFA disclosed these findings in a press release on 6 December, announcing the S$3,000 (US$2,240) fine for the identified food safety violations.
The charge sheet detailed various unsanitary conditions within Proofer Bakery’s premises, ranging from a dirty dough processing room to damaged walls in the icing room, as reported by CNA.
Further, the prosecutor emphasized the severity of the breaches, categorizing them as “serious” due to the multitude of failings outlined in the single charge.
The prosecutor argued that these lapses affected many areas of the licensed food establishment, posing risks to food safety and potentially impacting public health.
Citing precedents, the prosecutor recommended the S$3,000 (US$2,240) fine, noting that similar cases had resulted in fines ranging from S$2,500 (US$1,865) to over S$4,000 (US$2,980).
In conclusion, Proofer Bakery faced legal consequences for compromising food safety standards in its central kitchen, prompting a call for stricter adherence to cleanliness regulations within the food industry.
Proofer Bakery addresses regulatory concerns and implements measures after food safety breach
In a mitigating statement, reported by CNA, Proofer’s representative acknowledged the company’s culpability, admitting, “It’s oversight, bad management, bad housekeeping, and not going through the process of checking on the central kitchen.”
Emphasizing a commitment to corrective actions, he highlighted that Proofer had taken comprehensive steps to address the identified issues, including the closure of their central kitchen to prevent a recurrence.
To ensure future compliance, Proofer has implemented stringent measures such as the introduction of cleaning schedules at all its product-manufacturing shops, along with meeting all necessary cleanliness and operational requirements.
These efforts signify a proactive approach towards preventing similar incidents and maintaining a higher standard of food safety.
The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) responded to the situation by suspending Proofer Bakery’s food business operations from October 2021 to January 2022.
During this period, the bakery was mandated to rectify the identified lapses and enhance its food safety practices and overall premises cleanliness.
As a precaution, SFA also directed Proofer to recall its food products from all 16 retail outlets on 26 October 2021.
The suspension was ultimately lifted on 26 January 2022.
Despite considering Proofer’s early plea of guilt and acknowledging it as a first offense, the judge highlighted serious breaches in the cleanliness of the premises.
Notwithstanding the recognition of the company’s remorse, a maximum fine of S$5,000 (US$3,730) could be imposed for failing to maintain a licensed establishment in a clean and proper condition.
Furthermore, the possibility of an additional fine of up to S$100 (US$75) for each day, or part thereof, where the offense persists post-conviction serves as a potential deterrent for future lapses.
Proofer Bakery faces repeat hygiene-related suspensions
It appears that Proofer Bakery has faced previous suspensions for hygiene-related issues, as observed by comments on CNA’s Facebook section.
Some netizens expressed that this is not the first instance of Proofer Bakery making headlines for unhygienic practices.
The netizens, dissatisfied with the fines and suspensions, called for more stringent measures for repeat offenders.
Tagging the Singapore Food Agency, they suggested the implementation of stricter consequences.
Others proposed revoking Proofer’s food license due to repeated offenses and suggested tying the revocation to the owner, preventing them from operating under a different name.
The sentiment among these netizens is a demand for stronger actions against recurrent violations.
In July 2023, the Proofer Bakery outlet at Changi City Point underwent a two-week suspension, from 12 July to 25 July, imposed by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).
Additionally, Proofer was fined S$800 (US$597) for accruing 12 demerit points within a year, receiving six demerit points for each of two offenses related to failing to maintain licensed premises free of infestation.
The SFA operates on a points system, stipulating that a licensee accumulating 12 or more demerit points in a 12-month period may face a suspension of either two or four weeks, or even license cancellation.
During the suspension period, all food handlers in the affected premises are required to undergo and pass the Food Safety Course Level 1 before resuming their duties.
The licensee must also ensure that any food hygiene officers in the suspended premises, if applicable, re-attend and pass the Food Safety Course Level 3.
The SFA, taking a stern stance on these offenses, emphasized the importance of food operators adhering to good food and personal hygiene practices.
It reiterated the necessity of engaging registered food handlers.
Public calls for stricter penalties and regulatory overhaul amid concerns over food safety standards
Some commenters have expressed dissatisfaction with the current fine for unhygienic maintenance, deeming it insufficient.
They propose a tenfold increase as a potential measure to compel establishments to prioritize cleanliness more seriously.
Another commentator highlighted the perceived inadequacy of fines in deterring certain outlets from maintaining proper hygiene standards.
Calling for a stricter stance, they recommended that the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) consider imposing a penalty of S$10,000 (US$7,457) along with a suspension lasting five months for establishments demonstrating negligence in maintaining hygiene.
The emphasis was placed on the vital role such measures play in safeguarding the health of customers.
Other netizens went beyond the discussion of fines, suggesting a broader review of laws governing food hygiene and safety lapses.
They questioned the effectiveness of a maximum fine of S$5,000 (US$3,730), considering it insufficient to make a meaningful impact.
The inquiry extended to the establishment of a cleaning schedule, prompting the question of whether there was no schedule in place previously.
This led to a broader reflection on basic hygiene practices, with a comparison drawn to the diligence of hawkers who clean their stalls daily, emphasizing the fundamental importance of food safety and hygiene in the service industry.
A user has suggested that the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) should conduct random checks on all central food production outlets and kitchens, particularly those supplying products to retail stores.
The emphasis is on ensuring the quality and safety of food reaching the end consumers.
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