Restaurants, on the other hand, typically have better access to resources and can invest in quality ingredients, modern equipment, and professional staff.

But such larger operations can also lead to oversight on intricate processes, said SIT’s Dr Wang. 

They handle big volumes of food preparation and service simultaneously, increasing the risk of contamination if protocols are not followed. They may also prepare and hold food in advance, unlike hawker and coffee shop stalls. 

These smaller businesses, meanwhile, may lack the resources to carry out regular hygiene maintenance, said Dr Wang.

But the sous chef Ms Goh pointed out that hawkers have a better overview.

“They clean (the equipment) themselves, they know where to put it and maintain,” she said. “The hawker or the owner is a cook, a chef, a steward. He plays four, five roles by himself.”

In contrast, a restaurant chef would not know if the knife he was using was washed by the person who used it the day before.

Hawkers also work in spaces visible to the public, which could encourage them to maintain hygiene standards, while restaurants typically have kitchens behind closed doors, Ms Goh noted. 

HEAVY-DUTY CHECKS AND MEASURES

One business, How’s Catering, shared with CNA the extent of measures it takes to ensure food safety.

According to managing director Lyor Loh Chee Hua, among other steps, it designates kitchen spaces for specific functions; gets staff to ensure that delivered food is consumed within four hours of cooking; and sends samples to a lab to check for pathogens monthly. Samples will be from food, water, ice and surface and hand swabs.

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