by Vincent Low

Channel News Asia reported that the Clarke Quay branch of hotpot restaurant HaiDiLao has been suspended for two weeks (Feb 10 to Feb 23) by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

According to a suspension notice on NEA‘s website, the branch at 3D River Valley Road (Clarke Quay) had accumulated 12 demerit points over the last 12 months and the licensee was fined a total of $800.

The incidents which incurred the 12 demerit points were:

  • 6 points for handling food with bare hands.
  • 6 points for selling food which was unclean.

“All food handlers working in the suspended premises would also be required to attend and pass the Basic Food Hygiene Course again, before they can resume work as food handlers,” NEA said.

“NEA takes a serious view of these offences and would like to remind food operators to observe good food and personal hygiene practices at all times, and to engage only registered food handlers.”

It will not hesitate to take firm action against anyone found to be in violation of the Environmental Public Health Act, it added.

NEA further advises the public to call NEA hotline (1800-2255632) if anyone comes across poor hygiene practices in any food establishments here.

CNA reported that when its reporters visited HaiDiLao at Clarke Quay on Saturday evening (10 Feb), they came across a notice pasted at the outlet saying it would be “closed for 50 days for renovation”, effective Saturday.

When reporters called the outlet later, a lady picked up the phone and said that she was unsure when operations would resume. HaiDiLao also has other outlets at Bedok Mall, VivoCity, [email protected], Plaza Singapura and IMM.

HaiDiLao is PRC owned

HaiDiLao was founded in 1994 by Mr Zhang Yong, who came from a small village in Sichuan. Since then it has expanded to 57 cities with close to 200 outlets. Major cities in China include Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Nanjing, Xian, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Wuhan, etc. Outside of China, they also include Taiwan, Seoul, Tokyo and Singapore.

Singapore is the first country that HaiDiLao chose to expand outside of China. It started operating in Singapore in 2012.

A check on the Internet, however, shows that HaiDiLao has been plagued by a number of food safety issues in China.

Last Aug, it was forced to make a public apology for hygiene problems found in its Beijing outlets. Videos taken by hidden cameras showed rats in the kitchen, a dishwasher caked with oily food residue, and a staff trying to fix clogged sewage with a soup ladle.

“We are extremely sorry for the problems that were exposed and would like to express our sincere apology to the customers,” said a statement issued by Haidilao on 25 Aug 2017. The company added that they had already ordered all their restaurants to improve their hygiene.

As a result, the chain’s sanitation ratings were downgraded by the Chinese authorities.