Keynote Address by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at Food Tech 2023, on 13 January 2023
Mr Lennon Tan, President of Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF)
Ms Audrey Yap, Chairperson of Singapore Innovation and Productivity Institute and Honorary Treasurer of SMF
Mr Lawrence Pek, Secretary-General of SMF
Ladies and gentlemen
I am heartened to see many food manufacturers and food business operators gathered here today to discuss emerging food trends and food safety in Singapore. I hope everyone has had an insightful session thus far.
Food industry transformation
2 The environment in which we operate is a diverse one, with new trends and challenges constantly emerging and evolving. The added pressures of climate change compound the problem, affecting critical components of the world’s agricultural and food production sector. As we grapple with these challenges, we embrace the opportunities that come our way, with sustainability as a priority.
3 In recent years, we have seen the emergence of food innovations and their potential to drive change in the food industry. This enables us to grow more with less, in a resource-optimal, climate-resilient and commercially sustainable manner. For example, advancements in farming technology have contributed to the rise of the high-tech farming sector. Such farms maximise space, reduce resources and manpower, and increase productivity. Meanwhile, food innovations such as alternative proteins and novel foods are fuelling the growth of food technology manufacturing.
4 To support the transformation, the Government has committed $300 million to drive innovation in future foods, sustainable urban food production and food safety science under the Singapore Food Story R&D Programme. By exploiting the vast potential of food innovations, we are working actively to develop Singapore into an agri-food hub and a global living laboratory for food technology.
5 As new technologies and products emerge, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) innovates to stay ahead of the curve. The agency adopts a science-based risk management approach consistent with international standards and keeps abreast of the latest scientific developments. In 2019, SFA anticipated interest by global companies to undertake alternative protein production in Singapore. It established a new regulatory framework and safety assessment approach to assess the safety of novel foods. This helped to facilitate the growth of the nascent ecosystem of novel food production, such as cultured meats.
The rise of the food e-commerce industry
6 The food e-commerce industry is also booming, with an exponential increase in online purchases of food products and the use of food delivery services. In 2021, some 2.5 million consumers in Singapore used online platforms to purchase their food products. This was a 14 per cent increase from 2020 and this interest will continue to grow even as hybrid work arrangements become more common.
7 The growing prevalence of purchasing food products online also means that food e-commerce and delivery companies play an increasingly significant role in our food supply chain, and ensuring food safety for Singapore and Singaporeans. Food can be contaminated anywhere along this supply chain. This requires us to be vigilant towards food safety and traceability.
8 The recent pandemic has also contributed to the growth of food e-commerce. This in turn requires a new set of standards to ensure food safety. While consumers shopping at a physical store can check on the condition of the food and find out important details via the label before purchase, this is not always possible when buying food online. E-commerce consumers have to rely on the product information provided by the e-commerce platform, which can vary significantly depending on the level of oversight the e-commerce platform has on its suppliers.
9 This leaves much room to elevate industry standards, as well as improve and standardise online food sale practices so that the industry is aligned on its roles and responsibilities in ensuring food safety. The industry can then better respond to food safety incidents, including ensuring that only safe food products are sold online to provide consumers with better food safety assurance.
Launch of SS 687 Guidelines for food e-commerce
10 I am therefore pleased to launch the Singapore Standard (SS) 687 Guidelines for food e-commerce. With the standard, food business operators, e-commerce platforms and food delivery companies can gain greater clarity on the best practices in ensuring food safety throughout the different stages of the food e-commerce supply chain. For example, the standard provides guidance on the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders, as well as their responsibilities in food traceability and recalls.
11 The standard also aims to improve the online ordering experience for end consumers. When implemented, consumers will have access to more details on the food products they are purchasing online and be empowered to make more informed decisions.
12 I thank the many industry partners who have co-developed the standard with the Working Group on Food E-commerce that was appointed by the Singapore Standards Council (SSC) and overseen by Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG). Co-led by Food Industry Asia (FIA) and SFA, the Working Group took some 16 months to develop the guidelines, with the support of SMF Food & Beverage Industry Group, major local e-commerce platform companies, food delivery platforms, and supermarket retailers.
13 I encourage you to adopt the practices outlined and hold one another to high food safety standards. Some of the industry leaders – foodpanda, Amazon and Lazada – will be sharing how they will implement the guidelines in their companies. I hope the sharing will encourage you to play a more active role in food safety.
14 With a local industry standard on food safety for food e-commerce, there is opportunity for international standardisation as well. In fact, we are participating in the development of the international standards for food sold through e-commerce, under the Codex Committee on food labelling. We will continue to keep abreast of food safety developments internationally and align our standards where needed.
15 With technology and the post-COVID “new normal”, the way we access and produce food is rapidly changing. We must continue to adapt to this changing environment, and the new guidelines for food e-commerce are a big step forward. I encourage the industry to collectively work alongside us across all fronts to ensure a safe supply of food for Singapore.
16 I wish everyone a fruitful time for the rest of the event today, and a Happy Lunar New Year ahead. Thank you.