Kopitiam staff sacked for washing shoes in sink

From ‘NEA to take action against Kopitiam after employee was caught washing shoes in sink’, 23 June 2015, article by Lee Min Kok, ST

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said it will take action against food court operator Kopitiam after one of its employees was caught on camera washing her shoes in a sink at an outlet in the National University Hospital (NUH). The employee has been sacked after the incident was highlighted on social media.

The clip, which lasts almost two minutes, shows the woman scrubbing both her shoes with a brush under a running tap within the cold desserts section of the food court. She then appeared to return the brush to a container which held other kitchen utensils.

…Kopitiam, known for its chain of food courts in Singapore, has since apologised for the incident. In a post on Facebook on Tuesday morning, it assured customers that the washing equipment used by the employee had been replaced and the sink disinfected.

You may not be a frequent visitor to NUH Kopitiam, but patients from the wards are. Imagine if you were hospitalised for a severe bout of food poisoning and you decide to give yourself an icy treat near recovery, only to spend another few nights retching away because your Ice Kachang comes with ‘extra toppings': Someone’s inner sole leather shavings.

Food courts in hospitals should be held to a more stringent hygiene standard than the ones in your average shopping mall. For an environment already teeming with bugs, the last thing you need is someone introducing ‘foot-borne’ ones into your meal. Rival food chain Koufu was once flanked by an army of cockroaches, and a kid lost his life after eating tainted Nasi Padang in Northpoint’s Kopitiam branch.  Yet, despite all these horrific lapses in hygiene, Singaporeans still flock to these places because they’re willing to eat mediocre, sometimes atrocious, food as long as there’s air-con and staff discounts.

The rest of us with more discerning stomachs but on an equally tight lunch budget often turn a blind eye to the filthy practices at hawker centres, nor do we stand by and film elderly cleaners using the same piece of cloth to wipe tables, plates and trays and cost them their jobs after posting videos on Stomp.

There are worse things than giving your shoes a rinse-over in the sink, though. Here are some real-life tummy-churners:

1) Cleaners washing glasses in a pail of dirty water.

2) Washing raw food with rainwater from the roof.
4) Putting raw chicken on the floor.
5) Smoking while flipping prata.

Seriously, most of us are too hungry to scrutinise a hawker’s fingernails, how he handles our money, where he wipes his sweat, or how the dishwashing is done behind the scenes. Let this be a wake-up call not just for kopitiam vendors, but anyone with a licence to sell food, that whenever public health is compromised by a gross act of negligence, someone will be watching, complaining and NEA will step in and not hesitate to give the offender, well, the BOOT.

Burning joss paper leading to lung cancer

From ‘Restrict incense burning to places of worship’, 15 June 2015, ST Forum

(Madam Wah Yan Chan): I AGREE with Mr Mckeena Neo (“Common corridors not the place for burning incense paper”; June 2). While our forefathers may have burnt joss paper and incense sticks as a sign of devotion, they probably did so without knowing that such burning produces a cocktail of harmful carcinogens that may cause conditions such as asthma and, in the long term, can lead to life-threatening diseases such as lung cancer.

Causing inconvenience and harm to others should never be justified on the bases of religion and tradition. Surely Singapore should have a law prohibiting the burning of incense and joss paper in common areas and restricting the practice to designated places of worship.

There are regulations in the Environmental Public Health Act that stipulate how many joss sticks and candles with specific dimensions may be burnt in premises such as an ‘enclosed space’ or a temple. When burning cancerous joss paper, however, the public is merely advised to use burning pits and containers provided by town councils and clean up their mess after satisfying the gods, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it just outside your HDB flat. The writer above is clearly convinced that burning joss paper increases one’s risk of cancer and should be banned from public areas. The problem is she’s somehow OK with people getting cancer in ‘designated places of worship’.

Whether or not joss paper has the same risk as cigarette smoke is up for debate, since I believe no one has done extensive epidemiological studies on joss paper as we have for tobacco. What is certain, however, is joss paper is a potential fire hazard, especially if people are appeasing their ancestors near a PETROL STATION. Even burning them in bins as recommended by the authorities may lead to explosions in your FACE if there’s a stray aerosol can lying within. In 1976, a blaze ripped through a Jalan Ubi village, rendering 16 locals homeless. It started when burning joss paper flew into a mattress factory. If only the Fire department had SPRUNG into action faster then.

You may think we’re relatively safe because we don’t live in attap houses anymore, but God help you if a stray hot ash lands on your curtain.  You could say a lit cigarette may cause hell on Earth as well, but the trajectory of burning ash in the wind is more unpredictable, and it’s harder to catch the culprit because it could have blown in from anywhere. It could be a little girl behind it following her parents’ instructions to send money to Grandma’s account in the Netherworld. Do we, then, need to wait for someone to perish from a freak joss paper fire, not to mention asthma or lung cancer, before we do something?

Curbing a religious practice may have, well, inflammatory repercussions, and may explain why the authorities are slow to crack down on joss paper burning, even doing little to stop worshippers from aggravating the haze and pissing off asthmatics some years back. Interestingly, one of the stories behind how joss paper was invented involves a con-job by a paper inventor Cai Lun, who tried to boost paper sales by faking his own death and getting his wife to bribe the King of Hell to return his soul through joss offerings. Today, it has morphed into a custom of filial piety and endearing superstition, though one incompatible with our bid for a ‘clean and green’ future. Then again, we’re still seeing ever more cars on the road, trees being cut down to be replaced by condos and people continuing to smoke like chimneys because the government has banned all ‘smokeless’ tobacco products. At least the burning of joss paper, for all its environmental damage, is a small price to pay if it stops ghosts, demons and the evil dead from popping out of hell portals in what’s left of Bukit Brown and haunting the shit out of us all.

I forsee the practice dying out by the next generation anyway, provided we all don’t die of joss-induced cancer, asthma or in a fiery inferno anytime soon.

LKY being lionised into an ubermensch

From ‘Recognise imperfections without diminishing stature’, 28 March 2015, ST Forum

(Ng Qi Siang): I AM greatly saddened by Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death. He was a great leader and deserves our respect for making Singapore the great country it is today.  However, I am concerned that many Singaporeans have been accused of being “disrespectful” of Mr Lee by mentioning some of his mistakes or policies they disagree with. Mr Chia Boon Teck has even called for such speech to be punished with punitive action (“Take the disrespectful to task”; Forum Online, yesterday).

…Moreover, by deeming the discussion of Mr Lee’s faults taboo, we lionise him excessively and present an inaccurate picture of the man to future generations. For all his great deeds, Mr Lee also made mistakes. Some of his policies, such as the “Stop at Two” policy, led to undesirable outcomes like an ageing population. His strict governing style has also been the subject of much controversy.

In order to give Mr Lee an honest assessment, we should recognise these imperfections without diminishing his stature, as historians do with other great figures, from Winston Churchill to Thomas Jefferson.  This will allow future generations to better relate to him as it gives his legacy a human touch. It also allows them to learn from both his errors as well as his successes.

However, by lionising him to the point of ignoring his weaknesses, we risk mythologising him into an “ubermensch” that future Singaporeans cannot relate to. By glossing over his mistakes, they may be deprived of important lessons that may help them avert the mistakes of their forebears.

Mr Lee himself has acknowledged that he is not perfect. As a man who did not take to heart how others perceived him, he would not want the value of his legacy to be lost for the sake of universal laudation. Free debate will allow for a more meaningful discussion of Mr Lee’s place in history.

When Low Thia Khiang mentioned that LKY was considered a ‘controversial figure’ because ‘many Singaporeans’ were sacrificed and had to pay the price for his one-party rule during a solemn parliamentary tribute, he was swiftly rebuked for being insensitive in light of his passing. The Catholic Church’s Archbishop William Goh said that Lee would not be canonised because although he achieved a lot of Singapore, he had his FLAWS, in particular the crackdown on parishioners during the 1987 Marxist conspiracy (Time to move on from Marxist conspiracy, 28 March 15, ST), a dark period under LKY’s rule that is conveniently omitted from the memorial biographies. I doubt anyone would accuse the Archbishop of disrespecting the dead man, unlike the brickbats tossed at the leader of the Workers’ Party.

Some critics go for the jugular, and become the target of a witch hunt as you would expect given this emotional period. Playwright Alfian Sa’at condemns the ‘fishing village myth’ and how the week of mourning was also a ‘history revisionism free-for-all’ (Playwright Alfian Sa’at questions LKY legacy, 27 March 2015, ST). Loudmouth Youtuber Amos Yee posted a video titled ‘Lee Kuan Yew is Finally Dead’, calling LKY a ‘dictator’ and comparing the adulation to that for Jesus Christ. Yes this is the same kid who thinks CNY is bullshit. Once talent spotted by Jack Neo, now facing 15 police reports at time of writing.

To be sure, LKY was no saint, as much as we have to be thankful for his glorious work. The glossing over the ‘controversial’ aspects of his leadership is inevitable as Singaporeans, having no king, emperor, saints or superhero to revere since our founding, finally have the chance to mourn a strong father-leader figure, many to the extent of messianic idolatry. After all, rational behaviour is hardly expected when a nation is bereaved, if the 10 hour Padang queues are anything to go by. Respect the phenomenal heroics of the man, but also remember him as a mortal with hopes, dreams, loves, quirks, habits, and yes, the occasional mistake. Aspiration, not divination. And of course, it pays to get your facts right.

Tribute in India

If the exaggerated mythologising of the man is not kept in check, we’ll have our children believing that LKY descended onto our little pitiless island on a flying giant unicorn, threw rainbow confetti across the land which magically spring forth HDB blocks and skyscrapers over mudflats, his sweat and tears transforming into the clean drinking water that we all take for granted today. In fact, on the day of his funeral itself, one already remembered for the torrential, incidental ‘tears from heaven’ that accompanied it,  someone reported a full rainbow appearing over MBS (which turned out to be an image from 2010). Also, the birds were singing Somewhere Also the Rainbow while flying in formation over the travelling cortege. OK, the last one is made up. I stand corrected.

The devil, as they say, is in the details, and we risk slaying it if we overdo this rose-tinted tribute to LKY’s legacy, the gushing sentiment leading to a mass selective amnesia. We want to celebrate the man and his people without whom all this would not be possible, not the myth.

The ubermensch is German for ‘Superman’ or ‘Overman’, and we hear of mourners calling out to Lee as their ‘superhero’, ‘idol’ or bizarrely ‘Papa’, unaware that the man himself was known to eschew a personality cult, and was always reluctant to have buildings named after him. Since his death, we have petitions to rename Changi Airport to LKY airport, people changing their Facebook banners and profile pics to LKY and black ribbon decals with his face on cars. He was ultra-pragmatic both in life and would want his death to be likewise, without the wailing grandiosity and postmortem epithets such as ‘Architect of Modern Singapore’ and ‘Chief Gardener of Singapore’. I can imagine him shaking his head from above, telling Singaporeans to go home to their families, get back to work and stop screwing up the Padang, doing injustice to his life’s work as the creator of the ‘Clean and Green’ movement. Life goes on, as what as he had designed in the Singapore ‘DNA’ all along, for us to carry on without him.

If there’s anyone disrespecting our late leader, it’s the grievers leaving behind a sad mess for others to pick up after them while deifying the man, not the critics trying to make him sound more like us;  a fallible, emotional, stubborn human being, warts and all.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 2

While it is heartwarming to see genuine acts of compassion from ordinary people on the ground, it would be nice to see such kindness being displayed on an everyday basis. Yes, even in Hello Kitty queues.

When interviewed by the ST (Critical battles: Letting go of past, but not forgetting it, 29 March 2015, Sunday Times), Otto Fong, son of banished Fong Swee Huan, alleged instigator of the Hock Lee Bus Riots, said:

..As I looked at everyone queuing up, I wondered how many of them would do the same thing for their loved ones while they were still alive. There’s a difference between forgiving and forgetting. Forgiving is about letting go, forgetting is not healthy for history.

Yes, you probably wouldn’t give your own flesh and blood a Black Knight farewell when they pass on, but if there’s one lesson to take home from the week’s events, it’s to cherish your loved ones while they’re still around. The Old Man, God bless his soul, would agree.

ESM Goh on Singapore becoming a Garbage City

From ‘S’pore may end up as a ‘garbage city”, 29 Jan 2015, article in Today

The Republic may end up as a “garbage city”, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong today (Jan 29) following reports of how a part of the Gardens by the Bay was covered with rubbish following a music festival.

His remarks come a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted a picture on his Facebook page, which showed rubbish strewn on the ground following the 2015 Laneway Festival at the Meadow at Gardens by the Bay. About 13,000 people attended the Saturday event..

…In a Facebook post, Mr Goh wrote: “Our reputation as one of the world’s cleanest cities is going down the rubbish chute. It looks like a case of ‘monkeys see, monkeys do’.” He noted that Tokyo has no rubbish even though the Japanese capital has no rubbish bins in public places.

“The Japanese take their snack wrappers, empty bottles and ponchos home to dispose. That is why Tokyo is a fine city without ‘fine’ signs. That is why it is a clean city with no foreign workers.”

Mr Goh added: “Without foreign workers, Singapore is likely to become a ‘garbage city’. Cleanliness is a character thing. It shows who you really are. “

While our PM Lee was calm in his criticism of the ‘Landway Landfill’, using the more nuanced ‘cleaned city’ to describe our dependence on an army of labourers and shameless sense of entitlement (some Laneway goers interviewed in a ST article assumed that cleaning services were included in the festival ticket), our former PM has no qualms about trash-talking and putting our disgusting habits in the spotlight. Interestingly, he has summoned the analogy of ‘monkey see monkey do’ to describe the contagious mimicry of littering. And what do monkeys eat?

Here’s a clue, courtesy of Mrs Goh Chok Tong herself in reference to a certain NKF chairman’s salary, in full uncensored glory.

For a person who runs a million-dollar charitable organisation, $600,000 is peanuts as it has a few hundred millions in reserves.’

As they say, if you pay peanuts, you get..well – you know.

But back to Garbage by the Bay. The Laneway fallout isn’t new. We have been called ‘Garbage City‘ since 1983. Anyone who has stayed back after the NDP festivities to witness the mess left behind would hang their head in shame at the average 15 TONNES of rubbish per show. We can forgive Laneway hipsters, whose fashion accessories actually aspire towards ‘litter-chic’. We may even put the blame what one would expect to be a large non-Singaporean crowd among the audience. But to desecrate a parade ground after the nation’s birthday and singing along with Kit Chan to ‘Home Truly’ is just unforgivable. It makes a MONKEY out of National Day. It’s like blowing out Singapore’s birthday candles on a giant stadium sized cake, and then pooping all over it before we leave.

Even the phrase ‘cleaned city’ is recycled. Vivian Balakrishnan used it in 2012. Liak Teng Lit says that being called a ‘clean city‘ is a JOKE. But nobody’s laughing. It’s easy to rubbish our selling point to the world as a spick and span little red dot. Changing the mindset of the typical litterbug, however, takes more than a cute frog mascot, a public campaign with Ah Boys to Men singing in it, some ugly bright yellow CWO outfit to show the world you’re an incorrigible, lazy excuse of a human being, or slapping a outrageous fine on someone caught tossing cigarette butts out of his HDB window. A picture of the Laneway aftermath ought to speak a thousand words, yet no one seems to be listening.

So fine. We’re a bunch of spoilt ungracious louts with poor ‘character’. But what’s also annoying, though, is the tiresome comparisons to ‘spotless’ Japan every time some venue transforms into a junkyard after celebrations. ESM Goh says ‘Tokyo has NO rubbish’, which, from personal experience in my travels there, is a cliche and an exaggeration, though it still is generally cleaner than the little red rat-infested dump that we’re living in now. You don’t need a major event to show our true colours. I’ve seen people dumping an old TOILET BOWL in my void deck. Old folks still spit without repercussion. Drains are clogged after void deck events. Trays are not cleared. Don’t get me started on our toilets.

Sadly, the Japanese’s culture of shared responsibility and concept of ‘homeland’ has yet to sink in, and we’re struggling to work through the hypocrisy of celebrating recycling and Earth Hour on one hand, but on the other brushing parking coupon tabs to the ground when no one is looking. Our children are taught phonics before they are trained to throw their crap into dustbins.

We’re still haunted by the proverbial fishball stick. Unless something is done to address the psyche of the littering Singaporean who expects to be picked up after, we’ll get poked by the same issue again and again, relying on some reporting app launched by the MSO to complain about things lying around when it’s faster for us to pick it up and throw it away. While we look to the Land of the Rising Sun for inspiration in vain, this sunny island in the sea is fast becoming the ‘Land of the Rising SLUM’.

Rats on a hill near Bukit Batok MRT

From ‘Rat infestation near Bukit Batok MRT’, 17 Dec 2014, article in CNA

A rat infestation has been spotted in the vicinity of Bukit Batok MRT station. Simulation system operator Ryan Keith, 33, is a longtime Bukit Batok resident, and recorded a video of the rat infestation on Tuesday evening (Dec 16), at the hill just beside the train station.

“I was there for about 10 minutes and I think I saw more than 50 rats,” he told Channel NewsAsia. “This spot is near to many eateries, and rats can breed very quickly and bite through wires, so I am quite concerned.”

He said he has approached the National Environment Agency (NEA) about the problem, and they told him that “they will look into it“.

Channel NewsAsia understands that this is a plot of state land under the management of the Housing and Development Board (HDB), as an agent of the Singapore Land Authority. Channel NewsAsia has approached the HDB for comment.

It does not bode well when an agency says they will ‘look into it’, when they really should be saying ‘we’ll send someone down before someone gets bloody typhus’. At press time, both agencies are waiting for the other to issue ‘statements’, by which time another litter of rat babies would have already been born feeding off scraps from a discarded, oily Old Chang Kee plastic bag. Opposition parties contesting in the ward should be taking notes, because this is the best evidence available if you ever decide to call Bukit Batok constituency a shameful ‘slum’.

In this case, it appears that the buck is being passed to HDB who owns the vermin-infested land. When dead rats were found floating near the Merlion in 1972, the Ministry of Environment directed a complainant to the PWD (Public Works Department) and then the Health Ministry, before redirecting him back to the original contact. Well if only we had grass-cutting coordinator MSO to sort things out back then!

In our reputedly ‘spick and span’ Garden City, you still find these resilient little bastard critters invading shopping malls, fast food joints, hawker centres, HDB drains, or on the MRT. Even the food we eat is not spared. You could find pieces of rat in even roti prata with mutton curry.  In the fifties, people bought hunting cats to take matters into their own hands during a rat epidemic. Today you find rats as large as cats themselves, and the reason why cats are not doing their job is because they’re being over-fed, mutilated by humans, or being rounded up to become cuddle accessories in some cat cafe, where they spend their confined days staring out of the window depressed, fantasising about all the big fat rats they could maim and eat instead of entertaining shitty humans over tea and biscuits.

Well, if even stray cats and dogs are terrified of this marauding menace, there’s only one option left to resolve this issue. Release the PYTHON!!

Update: The NEA, AVA, Jurong Town Council and HDB issued a joint statement the following day blaming the rat infestation on people feeding stray dogs, while a pest control team was deployed to wage war on the rat army, an operation with the cheesy sounding name of ‘Rat Attack’ that drew excited crowds as if they were witnessing a SWAT team in a terrorist hostage situation. Kudos to the Star Pest Control team for braving the rain to subdue the pestilence. These guys have their own Facebook page, which features grisly photos of massive insect nests if you’re into that kind of thing. Their logo, strangely enough, includes a rat with a Elvis hairdo. Still, glad to know someone out there gives a rat’s ass about public health.

MSO tackling the problem of uneven grass patches

From ‘Government looking to coordinate grass-cutting services in public spaces’, 10 Dec 14, article in CNA

The Government is looking into consolidating grass-cutting services in public spaces. The Municipal Services Office, set up in October, said it is acting on feedback to better coordinate public services for residents.

…The Pang Sua Park Connector in Choa Chu Kang is a popular spot for many, but some have noticed that grass in the area is not evenly cut. Grass-cutting services for this strip along the park connector is managed by NParks. However, across a drain, such services for the plot of land is managed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). The uneven length is due to the agencies having different schedules for grass cutting.

Ms (Grace) Fu said: “(The person who raised the issue) felt it is sometimes a little bit strange where certain parts seem to be cut well, not the others, and also because some parts that are not cut frequently enough, it actually affected his experience of the park. So I think that we should take such feedback seriously, and we are looking for areas where we can systematically resolve issues rather than just do it on a case-by-case basis.”

The first order of business for the newly formed MSO is not handling difficult neighbours in a HDB estate, who should clean up collapsed trees or who should catch mynahs, but to tend to ugly looking grass patches because someone complained that his ‘park experience’ was affected by differing lengths of ground foliage  (#firstworldproblems). As a Garden City, having a uniformly green landscape is top priority, of course. You don’t want to instill mass panic in the general public by giving the impression that the drought is upon us once again because some patches look sparser than others. I suppose some people are more concerned about the state of the nation’s grass than their own public hair. Your wall-punching, Teo Chee Hean-dissing, nuisance neighbour from hell can wait, even if it takes 5 years. Grass takes precedence.

In the past, there’s nothing more terrifying than uncut, 1m long grass. People were afraid of snakes lurking within them, or you could step on dogshit without knowing it. Most of the time, however, our problem lies not with the grass itself, but the people paid to trim the green to maintain this tidy ‘park’ atmosphere. Grass-cutters were blamed for propelling rocks onto unwitting passers-by or cracking car windows, or even almost amputating legs off with their deadly hand-held cutters. When we get pricked by a stray twig that sprang wildly off those whirly blades of death, we curse contractors for employing reckless foreigner grasscutters or using a tool that would make them as hazardous as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and we curse them again if they’re not doing a proper job ensuring that not one blade of grass is taller than the other,  because we’re so used to seeing soothing, homogenous open spaces that the thought of one weed of lallang hanging out of place is enough to send us into cataleptic shock. Like when you order ice kacang and only one side of the slope has condensed milk but not the other.

In the meantime, uncles are running riot with their electric scooters, joggers are breaking their ankles tripping over protruding stones, and nobody’s picking up that fishball stick straddling the MRT track and park connector. Some people just don’t like the idea of the grass being greener on the other side, I guess. Next on the agenda, coordinating the management of fallen leaves so that we won’t have a situation where we have neat piles on one side of the pavement, and an unsightly orgy of scattered leaves on the other.

4 year old boy’s death from Nasi Padang a misadventure

From ‘NEA to take action against stall owner’, 1 Nov 2014, article by Hoe Pei Shan, ST

THE National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday said it will be taking action against the owner of the nasi padang stall linked to the death of a four-year-old boy. A coroner’s inquiry completed the day before found that Shayne Sujith Balasubraamaniam had likely contracted salmonella from food which his mother bought from the stall in Northpoint Shopping Centre’s Kopitiam foodcourt, before dying four days later on Jan 22. The coroner called the tragedy a “misadventure”.

Operations at the stall were suspended for three weeks for the NEA to conduct investigations. After the coroner’s inquiry, netizens wondered if stall owner Siti Abibah Guno would face further action. Responding to queries from The Straits Times, an NEA spokesman said yesterday: “With the coroner’s inquiry now completed, NEA will proceed to prosecute the licensee in court.”

Under the Environmental Public Health (Food Hygiene) Regulations, Madam Siti faces a fine of up to $2,000 for each charge. Investigations had revealed unsafe levels of bacteria at the stall because of two main hygiene lapses – failure to register a food handler as required and failure to protect food in a covered receptacle.

Madam Siti was adamant when she told The Straits Times over the phone on Thursday that she had done nothing wrong as her licence to run a food stall had not been revoked.

According to the NEA’s advisory webpage, ‘3 persons’ were reported to contract ‘food poisoning’ on 18 Jan 2014, and NEA decided to drop the grading down to ‘C, but only effective from 10 April 2014, nearly 3 months after the boy’s death. My Paper reports that other than the deceased, his mother and 2 year old sister were also hit by the salmonella bug, the culprits being curry chicken and tahu goreng. If you check the latest grade for Siti’s stall from NEA’s online database, you would find, to anyone’s befuddlement, that it had since been upgraded to A. But what’s more surprising is that Siti was awarded NO DEMERIT POINTS and listed as NO SUSPENSIONS at all the past year, despite the Jan incident. You might even say it’s an unblemished track record just looking at the details below. No wonder she thinks she has done ‘nothing wrong’.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 7.47.12 AM

 ‘C’ means a score of 50-69%, or barely meeting the passing mark, though the running joke among fans of hawker food is that the lower the score, the tastier the food, with the lowest rating ‘D’ standing for ‘Delicious’. With this Nasi Padang tragedy, you can’t tell that joke anymore without someone groaning at its, well, tastelessness. D is diarrhoea, then death. So, the question remains, how reliable are these ratings anyway? How does the public make an ‘informed choice’ from these grades if there’s a lapse of a few months between a tragedy and the actual ‘demotion’? Or if your online licensing details says there were no suspensions the past year when in fact there was?

It seems that NEA will only issue some kind of strained apology or reassurance when hundreds of people are affected, like the Geylang Serai rojak poisoning back in 2009, which also took 2 lives thanks to an outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacterium that also sounds like a Harry Potter spell to induce instant faecal incontinence. Back then, the CEO of NEA himself wrote a letter to Today saying he was ‘deeply saddened’ and that NEA ‘should have moved in firmly’ to tackle the rat infestation problem at the Temporary Market. In this Nasi Padang case, they’ve decided to go on the litigious offensive straight off, before telling us how ‘affected’ they are by the tragic demise, or what measures, other than tweaking gradings up and down, are going to be implemented to ensure that such ‘misadventures’ don’t happen again. Incidentally, the rojak stall was also rated C (Rojak stall given C grade for hygiene in Dec, 8 April 2009, ST).

 Meanwhile, if you think you’re safe if you avoid stalls which display uncovered food, whether it’s economic rice, rojak or Taste of Nanyang Chicken Rice, think again. Even dipping your fishballs in a Sichuan hot pot may not avert a gastrointestinal holocaust. Nor eating Prima Deli chocolate cakes. You should also worry about what your kids eat in their school canteens. If you see a food stall with a ‘C’ rating, don’t think of it as ‘satisfactory’ or ‘average’, but ‘CAUTION’.  Do a quick spotcheck of the premises before ordering, and don’t gobble down the food in case it’s swarming with gross, hidden maggots, as what happened with another case of Nasi Padang last year (also from a stall in Yishun), an image that is enough to turn you into a vegetarian for a week. Watch out for Ecoli in salad though.

As for NEA’s online database, if it’s really a case of wrong information displayed, then you’ve just scored a big ‘F’ in my book.

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