SINGAPORE: In response to questions regarding the standards of cleanliness at public toilets at coffee shops in Parliament, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said this week that coffee shops should adopt the same cleaning frequencies recommended to hawker centres.
In a written reply released on Wednesday (10 Jan), Ms Fu referred to an advisory issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA) in March 2023, reminding public toilet owners to keep toilets clean by having a proper schedule for cleaning and maintenance. The advisory says that toilets should be cleaned once every one to two hours during non-peak periods.
During peak periods, however, the recommended maintenance schedule is every 30 minutes.
In November, a nationwide study was published by the Singapore Management University (SMU) on the state of public toilets in Singapore. The SMU study showed that coffee shop toilets are still as dirty as they were three years ago. The study, which assessed 1000 toilets, discovered that the hygiene conditions remain subpar, with toilets near cooking facilities standing out as the dirtiest.
“Having a clean toilet to use is a fundamental human right. In the pandemic state of heightened awareness about public hygiene and now post-pandemic, Singaporeans would expect an uplift in public toilet cleanliness, especially after having heard of toilet improvement programmes.
“But (the study) has exposed yet again the spectre of hundreds of abysmal toilets, often in close proximity with kitchens and food-handling areas. These are a daily menace faced by public toilet cleaners, workers and customers in coffee shops and hawker centres. Food sanitation and toilet hygiene are strongly correlated,” said SMU Principal Lecturer of Statistics Ms Rosie Ching, who led the study.
Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye (PAP-Radin Mas SMC) asked the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment whether the NEA imposes a minimum standard of cleanliness for public toilets at coffee shops. If this is not the case, he asked if NEA would consider issuing a guideline or standard to ensure the cleanliness of all public toilets.
Ms Fu said in her answer that licensees of food establishments, including coffee shops, must ensure that the toilets in its premises are kept clean and properly maintained, according to Regulation 30(2) of the Environmental Public Health (Food Hygiene) Regulations.
Inspections are conducted by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) to make sure that licensees follow regulations and implement measures to maintain good public hygiene. When lapses are detected, the SFA takes enforcement actions.
The minister added that under the Environmental Sanitation (ES) Regime, coffee shops must develop and implement upstream measures to achieve cleanliness outcomes at their premises, including their toilets. The Premises Managers of coffee shops must adopt mandatory baseline cleaning standards such as minimum daily cleaning and disinfection frequency, as well as thorough cleaning and disinfection at least once every quarter. /TISG