As the national authority on food safety, AVA is responsible for the safety and resilience of Singapore’s food supply. AVA takes charge of Singapore’s food safety through a system based on risk analysis, which includes legislation and standards, accreditation, import control, inspection and surveillance, as well as laboratory testing. It has a routine surveillance programme in place to monitor and test food regularly for compliance with the food safety standards and requirements. The sampling tests cover a wide range of chemical contaminants, heavy metals, drug residues, colour and microbial contaminants.
For 21-year-old AVA Undergraduate Scholar (Overseas) Poh Jer Lin, the AVA Undergraduate Scholarship offered her an excellent opportunity to pursue her interest in Food Science. Now pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Food Science at McGill University in Canada, Jer Lin offers us insights into the opportunities an AVA scholar enjoys.
Poh Jer Lin
AVA Undergraduate Scholar (Overseas)
Studying: Bachelor of Science in Food Science,
McGill University, Canada
What motivated you to apply for the AVA Undergraduate Scholarship? Why did you choose to do a degree in food science?
Poh Jer Lin: I have always been passionate about food and science and am endlessly fascinated by the chemistry of food components and the creativity and technical knowledge involved in formulating food products. As a cross-disciplinary field that studies all aspects of the food chain from farm to fork, Food Science naturally appealed to me.
Furthermore, I am keen to pursue a career in the Public Sector as I want to make a meaningful contribution to Singapore through my work. A career in AVA would be highly compatible with my interest in Food Science, and I was drawn to the range of career paths it offered. My degree in Food Science also includes courses in food microbiology, food analysis, food quality assurance and food traceability, all of which are essential for a thorough understanding of food safety and which will definitely help me in my future career.
Other than food safety, AVA is also involved in food security efforts and conducts research and development projects to help the farming sector improve its productivity and competitiveness.
Tell us more about AVA’s role in ensuring the safety of Singapore’s food supply.
Jer Lin: AVA conducts strict tests on food to ensure it complies with our food safety standards and regulations. AVA also routinely inspects food producers and processing establishments. These are conducted to the highest standards to ensure the safety of Singapore’s food supply.
Furthermore, import sources of meat and egg are subjected to a rigorous accreditation process involving the appraisal of the exporting countries’ regulations, animal health status as well as the food establishment’s production systems and practices. Hazardous food sources are suspended and only reinstated after the hazards are ascertained to have been dealt with. In addition, AVA actively engages the industry and public to raise awareness about food safety and continually improves on its current surveillance capabilities to tackle new food safety issues.
What opportunities has your scholarship given you?
Jer Lin: Other than sponsoring my studies, AVA has supported me with various opportunities for skills upgrading. For example, after my first year in university, I participated in the National University of Singapore Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in Science (UROPS), a summer research programme which equipped me with better laboratory and analytical skills. More recently, I represented my school at the Universitas 21 Undergraduate Research Conference at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, where I learnt about food safety issues from the perspectives of science, legislation and social science.
One particular highlight would be the internship I completed at AVA’s Post-Harvest Technology Department after my second year of studies. I had the opportunity to contribute to the development of Good Manufacturing Practices for sushi and sashimi, and was involved in product innovation for okara, a byproduct of soy milk production. I was later attached to the Food Supply Resilience Group, where I learnt about Singapore’s strategies to safeguard the resilience of her food supply, in addition to gaining a clearer understanding of food supply policies and AVA’s role in fisheries and fishery port management. I was extremely inspired by my colleagues’ passion for their work and it was altogether a highly enriching experience.
How has the opportunity to study overseas added value to your education?
Jer Lin: My time at McGill University has allowed me to meet people who are highly passionate about agricultural and environmental sciences. Through the multiple conversations and friendships forged, I have expanded my knowledge in topics ranging from agricultural economics to global food security. I have also taken an interest in food waste reduction through my involvement in a cooking club on campus which makes use of perishable produce donated from grocery stores.
In addition, I attended the 17th World Congress of Food Science and Technology last August in Montreal, Canada, where I learnt about the latest developments in food safety and food regulations. I also look forward to representing my school in the upcoming Institute of Food Technologists Student Association’s food product development competition.
What do you look forward to in the future?
Jer Lin: As an AVA scholar, I look forward to exciting career development opportunities, such as a secondment to the Ministry of National Development headquarters to gain experience in policy development and attachments to external organisations for greater exposure.
I also hope to take up a regulatory role in defending Singapore’s food supply against future threats such as intentional contamination and food fraud – the deliberate adulteration of everyday foods by companies. In addition, I aspire to create a motivational and supportive work environment at AVA to bring out the best in its people!
What advice do you have for students who wish to follow in your footsteps?
Jer Lin: I encourage students who are interested in the AVA Undergraduate Scholarship to find out as much as they can about the organisation and to apply for the scholarship if they are interested in AVA’s work. On a more general note, I would definitely urge students to follow their passions and to pursue a career and education in an area that they love in order to make the best of both!