What are the rules?
Catered food must be consumed WITHIN FOUR HOURS of preparation.
“Food pathogens multiply rapidly between 5°C and 60°C. Always keep hot food hot above 60°C and cold food cold below 5°C. No food should be kept at room temperature for more than 4 hours from the time it was cooked at the caterer’s kitchen to the time it is consumed.” - Singapore Food Agency
Packaged meals MUST include a time stamp. Once the 4 hour window has passed, you are obliged to discard the food.
“The “CONSUME BY” time should not be later than 4 hours from the time the food is cooked or ready-to-eat and kept between 5°C and 60°C.”
“Do not consume the food past the “CONSUME BY” time on the time stamp. Any food not eaten by the “CONSUME BY” time should be discarded, as the food would have been left at room temperature for more than 4 hours. Please advise your guests/staff not to pack left-over food for consumption after the “CONSUME BY” time.”
The reality is that many people pack buffet food home and consume it later. While few fall sick doing this, do be aware that this is against SFA guidelines and puts you at higher risk for food poisoning.
While eating leftover buffet seems little different than eating home leftovers, remember that:
- you don't know how long the food has been left out
- you do not know what the prep conditions were
So do take care to ensure the leftovers you consume are well reheated and do not have any signs of contamination. If anything is off (smell, look, taste) then chuck it. Avoiding food waste should not be done at the expense of your health!
Good Samaritan Food Donation bill
Because of the food safety laws, few businesses are comfortable with food rescues. If someone were to fall sick from consuming their excess food, they could be liable.
In 2020, MP Louis Ng called for a public consultation on a “Good Samaritan Food Donation Bill” with the aim to help waive the liability for food donors under certain conditions, and to provide incentives for F&B establishments to donate wasted food – all while ensuring food safety. There have been no recent updates about this in the press.