From Michelin-starred hawker stalls to countless cafes across the island, Singaporeans are bound by our common love for food. But in the face of global food supply challenges such as climate change, food security in Singapore is not a given. This is where the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), a statutory board under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, comes in to oversee food safety and food security from farm-to-fork.
Under the SFA Undergraduate Scholarship, SFA invites individuals with a passion for food to embark on the journey to help ensure and secure a supply of safe food for Singapore. BrightSparks speaks to SFA scholar Jeremy Wee, 26, to learn more about his role as a Manager in the Operations Management Department, under SFA’s Compliance Management Division.
Keeping Food Safe For All
Jeremy’s daily work involves coordinating operations, such as the inspection of food businesses and the investigation of foodborne outbreaks, across SFA’s regional offices. He elaborates, “These operations are important in ensuring and securing a supply of safe food for all. It is critical that we work towards removing contaminated food from the market as well as to investigate food outbreaks to reduce the likelihoods of such incidents from happening again.”
Jeremy Wee Jian Yang
Manager, Compliance Management
Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Technology
– National University of Singapore
“I find my work purposeful as I am constantly challenged to translate my technical knowledge on food science into operational policies and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which will facilitate operational work like conducting inspection and sampling.”
Part of Jeremy’s work also includes developing the SOPs, which guide the work of SFA inspectors. This is where the experience gained from his previous role as an Inspector in the Import Inspection Department have come in handy.
“Having done inspection and sampling on the ground myself, I find it particularly rewarding when I am able to balance operational demands and feasibility on the ground to propose sound operational policies,” he elaborates.
Learning To Wear Different Hats
His stint as an Inspector was part of the rotation system in place for scholars, where they are regularly rotated in different departments within SFA. And as Jeremy has found, there are new and exciting things to learn in every role.
As an inspector, his responsibilities include conducting inspections, sampling imported food such as meat and eggs, and reviewing the inspection programme. “It was an eye-opening experience for me as I got to witness first-hand the large variety of food that Singapore imports, and the important role that my colleagues play in ensuring that they are safe for consumption,” Jeremy elaborates.
Daily interactions with importers also allowed him to understand the development and challenges in the food industry, as well as the sentiments of various stakeholders, he adds.
Looking ahead, Jeremy hopes to contribute in other spheres of work within SFA, such as policymaking, in the near future. “This would allow me to transfer my technical knowledge alongside with the operation considerations that I have picked up, and to engage in policy-making work which is more upstream in nature,” he explains.
A Passion For Food
When choosing his discipline in university, Jeremy looked out for two things. Firstly, it had to be applicable to his daily life, and secondly, he wanted a purposeful career that would improve the lives of others. “Eating is something that we do on a daily basis, hence it was an easy decision for me to study Food Science and Technology, since I would have the opportunity to deal with a variety of dynamic issues relating to food, such as in product development, food safety, and food supply,” he says.
Taking up the SFA Undergraduate Scholarship – then known as the AVA Undergraduate Scholarship – also meant that he could put his education to good use, while constantly learning and growing in a challenging environment, added Jeremy.
With the end goal of contributing to SFA’s work in mind, he was able to better plan his learning journey during his time at the National University of Singapore (NUS). “On top of my modules in Food Science and Technology, I also took Public Health modules,” Jeremy elaborates. “This decision has paid off, as what I’ve learnt in the module dovetailed into the scope of SFA’s work, including providing an understanding on how to manage foodborne outbreak situations.”
Food Safety First
Under the scholarship, SFA also gave him the opportunity to go on a semester-long exchange programme in Innsbruck, Austria. “Besides attending many interesting classes and field trips on agriculture, fermentation, and food processing which are not available in NUS, I went backpacking across 18 countries in Europe. The experience really helped to broaden my understanding of other food industries beyond Singapore’s.”
But over and above the financial benefits and overseas opportunities, having a passion for food is important for those looking to apply for the SFA Undergraduate Scholarship. Jeremy concludes, “I will advise incoming scholars to be open-minded and flexible as there are a lot of unforeseen circumstances and challenges that can turn into fruitful opportunities for learning and growth.”