New stat board to oversee food safety and security; AVA to be disbanded

Matthew Mohan Channel NewsAsia 26 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE: A new statutory board, to be called the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), will be formed in April next year under the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) to oversee food safety and security, it was announced on Thursday (26 Jul).

The agency will bring together food-related functions currently carried out by three other agencies - the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), said MEWR and the Ministry of National Development (MND) in a joint news release.

Formed in response to challenges posed by the global food landscape and climate change, SFA will manage food safety, hygiene regulations and address issues of food supply.

SFA aims to “enhance regulatory oversight from farm to fork”, the release added.

A National Centre for Food Science will also be established under SFA, consolidating the food laboratory capabilities of the three agencies.

“Safeguarding Singapore’s food supply is increasingly challenging due to the complexities of global food supply chains as well as the impacts of climate change,” said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli in the press release.

“We are already seeing the effects of climate change, such as plankton blooms from warmer sea waters and increasingly erratic rainfall patterns. The formation of the SFA is timely as Singapore aims to turn our food challenges into strategic advantages.”

“The SFA will work closely with industry and R&D partners to develop new solutions and products, and seize global opportunities in the food industry,” added Mr Masagos.

“Doing this will help make our food supply future-ready and provide good jobs for Singaporeans in the food industry.”

The SFA will also aim to streamline licensing standards for food businesses, including farmers, food manufacturers, food retailers and food service operators.

Mr Lim Kok Thai, chief executive officer of AVA, will be concurrently appointed as the chief executive officer (designate) of SFA.

NPARKS TO BE LEAD AGENCY FOR ANIMAL AND WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

In addition, under the government’s reorganisation of its food, plant health and animal management functions, all non-food plant and animal-related functions of the AVA will be transferred to the National Parks Board (NParks).

This will allow NParks to provide a one-stop service on animal management and welfare issues, manage “human-animal interactions”, and improve the detection and response to animal diseases which can be transmitted to humans, said the press release.

“With NParks as the lead agency for animal and wildlife management, as well as animal and plant health, we will work more closely with stakeholders to develop a science-based management approach, with holistic strategies and more effective responses,” said Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee.

A new Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) will be created under NParks and take on the AVA’s role as first responder for animal-related feedback, as well as maintaining standards in animal welfare and health.

When the changes take effect on Apr 1, 2019, AVA, which was formed in 2000, will be dissolved.

The reorganisation will see about 1,150 staff redeployed from the AVA, NEA and HSA. About 850 staff from the three agencies will be transferred to SFA. Another 300 will be transferred from AVA to NParks.


New food agency will better support entrepreneurship, boost efficiency: Industry players
Matthew Mohan Channel NewsAsia 26 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE: The formation of the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has been welcomed by the industry, which said that the new statutory board would better support the local food sector and help boost its efficiency.

The SFA, which will oversee food safety and security, will be set up under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) in April next year. It will bring together food-related functions currently carried out by three other agencies - the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

Speaking to reporters on the sideline of a visit to The Soup Spoon on Thursday (Jul 26), Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said the SFA would better "integrate" the food industry.

"This will bring together various parts of these agencies to look at food from farm to fork and this will integrate the industry and as well as support them in order to take advantages that's available to our food industry."

George Huang, chairman of the recently formed Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation (SAFEF), said the formation of SFA would better facilitate the process of farmers applying for various licenses.

"From the farmers' point of view, I think it is a very good move," said Mr Huang. "Now we have an organisational body that covers the whole supply chain ... It will be much more efficient and support entrepreneurship much more."

"For example, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) (currently) takes care of farm licenses, but if for example a fish farm wants to sell fish on the farm premises, it falls under retail, which is under the NEA."

"The issue is not getting the license - Singapore is quite efficient and so is the NEA. The thing is that the rules might not be totally aligned," added Mr Huang. "One deals with farming and the other with retailing. There might be some grey areas or gaps in between."

Jocelyn Chng, chief executive officer of JR Group Holdings, which operates restaurants and hot-food vending machines among others, agreed that the formation of the SFA would streamline the process of applying for the relevant licences.

Currently, food retail businesses are licensed by the National Environment Agency (NEA), but those who wish to run a central kitchen require a different licence from the AVA.

"It will be more efficient, because we don't need to go to two authorities or agencies to get clearance and approval," she added. "With this one single agency, in terms of the regulations, the officers or the agency will be very clear in what they are offering.

"There's also more clarity. We know where to go and which agency to approach. Thirdly, we will also get better support, assuming there are licensing officers who know our businesses well, they will be able to support us better."

The hope is that these changes would also lead to greater savings for companies such as JR Group, Ms Chng said.

"That will be a win-win for everyone," she added.

While Mr Shannon Lim, who operates a fish farm off Lorong Halus, welcomed the announcement, he also hoped that SFA would be able to better allocate resources, including manpower to help local farmers.

"(It's a) good idea," said Mr Lim, explaining that the AVA was "always stretched too thin".

Mr Lim said that he has yet to receive a mandatory fish culture farm worker identification card for one of his employees, despite getting it approved in February.

"We tried to collect (it) at their office in June. They said it wasn’t ready yet," he added. "A more focused agency should be able to allocate resources better."

But apart from resource management, Mr Huang hopes that the SFA would help farmers in the export of their produce.

"We have to increase Singapore's capabilities, such that our products are of international standards, that it is exportable - that's where you get a higher value of Singapore branding."

Source: CNA/mt(ms)


New S'pore Food Agency to oversee food safety regulations and related matters from next April
CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 26 Jul 18;

AVA will cease to exist; NParks to become lead agency for animal and wildlife management

SINGAPORE — A new statutory board called the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will oversee food safety and security from April next year, following a reorganisation of three existing agencies under one roof.

Formed from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), National Environment Agency (NEA) and Health Sciences Authority (HSA), the SFA will oversee food safety regulations across the entire chain. It will sit under the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR).

With this, the AVA will be dissolved, and its functions distributed to the SFA and the National Parks Board (NParks), which will be beefed up to take on all non-food plant and animal related functions of AVA. About 300 AVA staff will be transferred to NParks.

NEA and HSA will continue to carry out their existing functions, without their food hygiene arm and food safety lab respectively.

Announcing the move on Thursday (July 26), MEWR and the Ministry of National Development (MND) said the reorganisation will involve about 1,150 staff. No one will be retrenched.

The newly formed SFA will comprise about 850 staff — 600 from AVA, 220 from NEA and 30 from HSA. It will be helmed by AVA's current chief executive officer, Mr Lim Kok Thai.

The move will benefit consumers and businesses alike, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee at the sidelines of a visit to The Soup Spoon's central kitchen at Jurong.

Having a dedicated agency will mean more efficient responses in the event of food-borne disease outbreaks and better coordination when products have to be traced and recalled.

The SFA will also be able to address lapses more quickly and streamline responses to various stakeholders like businesses, media and also public.

MORE EFFICIENT LICENSING PROCESS

The new agency will also mean more business-friendly regulations, as existing licences for food businesses will be approved by a single authority. For example, businesses which had to apply for multiple operating licenses from the NEA and AVA previously will now need to deal with only one agency.

Among those who welcomed this consolidation, which would reduce manpower and administrative costs for businesses, was managing director and co-founder of homegrown food brand The Soup Spoon, Mr Andrew Chan.

Mr Chan, whose company operates two central kitchens and more than 25 restaurants islandwide in various shopping malls such as NEX and Bugis Junction, said the process of applying for licences can be cumbersome and time-consuming.

Citing the example of how they had to get a licence from AVA to run a central kitchen, and another from NEA to cater food, Mr Chan said: “If you want to operate a business that’s doing both (like ours), you need two separate facilities that do exactly the same thing, and they can’t be in the same address because (each) licence is tagged to one address.”

With licence applications being consolidated under the SFA, Mr Chan said multiple facilities can be done away with. This would mean a “great reduction in rental and set up-cost, (running) anywhere up to tens of thousands of dollars”, added Mr Chan.

Besides business operations, the SFA will also oversee the Republic’s overall food safety and security. To that end, a National Centre for Food Science (NCFS) set up under its auspices will consolidate the food laboratory capabilities of the three agencies. It will run food diagnostics, and conduct research and development in food safety to ensure that food continues to be safe for consumption and standards are benchmarked internationally.

Mr Masagos said: "The formation of the SFA is timely as Singapore aims to turn our food challenges into opportunities. The SFA will work closely with industry partners to develop new solutions and products... (such as) climate resilient farming solutions and advanced food manufacturing techniques.”

Agreeing that a single agency can have a “more holistic picture of food supply and security”, Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation chairman George Huang said: “Currently, there isn’t one agency that is entirely aware of the various sources and destination of food in the supply and demand chain … AVA is aware of what food comes in, the sources, and NEA is aware of what is on the shelf.”

He added: “It’s just so much easier, even for the man on the street, because anything to do with food, you’ll just have to go to one agency.”

EXPANDED SCOPE FOR NPARKS

Under the reorganisation, NParks, which sits under MND, will become the lead agency for animal and wildlife management, on top of its previous responsibility of overseeing wildlife conservation, ecology and horticultural science.

A new Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) will be formed under NParks, and it will be the main touch-point for animal related issues for pet owners and businesses, and animal welfare groups.

It will also take on AVA's current role as the first responder for animal-related feedback and deal with issues in animal welfare and safety.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore deputy chief executive Cheng Wen Haur said that the restructure is logical, given that the current segregation of animal issues by geography — within and outside of nature reserves — is a result of different skill sets being situated in different agencies, for example veterinarians in one and wildlife officers in another.

“The new structure will consolidate all relevant skills and competencies in one department to focus on serving and managing wildlife, eliminating ambiguities and improving efficiency”, he added.

Ahead of the set-up of SFA, however, several laws will have to be amended or repealed as part of the process. Some examples include the National Parks Board Act, Wild Animals and Birds Act, Animals and Birds Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Control of Plants Act, while other food-related acts may be affected as well.

From now till April 2019, AVA, NEA, HSA and NParks will continue to carry out their existing functions.

New stat board Singapore Food Agency to be formed in April 2019; AVA will cease to exist
Derek Wong Straits Times 26 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE - A new government agency will be formed on April 1 next year to oversee food safety and security, the Government announced on Thursday morning (July 26).

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA), a statutory board, will come under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (Mewr) and will be taking over food-related work currently being done by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

The AVA will cease to exist from next April and its animal-related functions, such as animal welfare, will be transferred to the National Parks Board (NParks) under the Ministry of National Development (MND).

The reorganisation will involve about 1,150 staff, said an MND spokesman. The new food agency will have about 850 staff, 600 of whom will come from the AVA, 220 from NEA and 30 from HSA. About 300 AVA staff will move to NParks.

The SFA aims to deal with global food supply challenges caused by climate change but will also look to seize global opportunities in the food industry, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, citing plankton blooms as an example of the effect of climate change. Plankton bloom threatens fish stocks as the micro-organisms suck oxygen from the water.

"The SFA will work closely with industry and research and development partners to develop new solutions and products," Mr Masagos said, adding that these include climate-resilient farming solutions and advanced food manufacturing techniques.

The agency also intends to improve food safety. Three agencies - AVA, NEA and HSA - currently regulate this across the food supply chain, and Singapore Food Agency will be the sole organisation doing so from next April.

"This enables the SFA to address lapses more quickly and more holistically, and streamline public feedback to one point of contact," Mewr and MND said in a joint statement.

SFA will take charge of managing food-borne disease outbreaks and coordinate product tracing and recall.

The move will combine NParks' expertise in wildlife conservation and horticultural science, and AVA's in animal and plant health, said a joint statement by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, and the Ministry of National Development.

Mr Lim Kok Thai, chief executive of AVA, will be concurrently appointed chief executive (designate) of SFA before the changes take place next April.

The changes will also see NParks become the lead agency for animal and wildlife management, as well as animal and plant health.

"The transfer of AVA's plant- and animal-related functions will allow NParks to provide one-stop service to Singaporeans and stakeholders on animal management and animal welfare issues, manage human-animal interactions, and improve the detection of and response to zoonotic diseases," said the statement. Zoonotic diseases refer to diseases that spread from animals to humans.

NParks will also have a new Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) that will be in touch with pet owners and businesses as well as animal welfare groups.

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who, like Mr Masagos, was quoted in the joint statement, said: "With NParks as the lead agency for animal and wildlife management, as well as animal and plant health, we will work more closely with stakeholders to develop a science-based management approach, with holistic strategies and more effective responses."

MORE STREAMLINED LICENSING, DIRECT FEEDBACK CHANNEL

SFA will help food businesses streamline licensing processes and assist individuals in contacting the relevant authorities for their needs.

Currently, food retailers who wish to expand their operations in the food supply chain - for instance, to run a central kitchen - require different licences from the NEA and AVA.

From next April, the licences can be obtained from a single source - the SFA - reducing the need for operators to deal with different agencies.

"By harmonising licensing standards and combining existing licences for food businesses, including farmers, food manufacturers, food retailers and food service operators, businesses will be able to adapt and transform their business models seamlessly and look at new ways to grow their operations," Mewr and MND said.

In cases pertaining to food safety, all public feedback will be channelled to the SFA from next April. Currently, NEA, AVA and HSA regulate food safety across the food supply chain, which may cause confusion in the feedback process.

Increased expertise, more holistic overview of flora and fauna for NParks
Derek Wong Straits Times 26 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE - The transfer of animal-related functions from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to the National Parks Board (NParks) aims to create a more holistic understanding of flora and fauna and better manage human-animal interactions.

The move will combine NParks' expertise in wildlife conservation and horticultural science, and AVA's in animal and plant health, said a joint statement by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, and the Ministry of National Development.

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said: "While we have done well to balance urban development and conservation of our natural heritage, there are opportunities to achieve greater synergy by bringing together the plant and animal roles."

This comes as the Government announced that a new government agency, the Singapore Food Agency, will be formed on April 1, 2019, and take over the work of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

Having a single lead agency in wildlife management will also help reduce the time needed to coordinate different agencies in certain cases.

For example, under the old structure, if there is public feedback about wild boars roaming in a public place, NParks will handle the case if the animals are spotted in a park or nature reserve. If the boars appear in urban areas, the case will be referred to the AVA.

Under the new structure, the case will be handled by just NParks.

However, vector control, which is the management of disease-carrying pests such as rodents, cockroaches and mosquitoes, will still be carried out by the National Environment Agency.

No comments:

Post a Comment