THE National Environment Agency (NEA) has issued 2,456 tickets to food handlers and suspended 17 outlets for hygiene lapses since the start of the year.

The action comes amid renewed efforts by the agency to enforce better hygiene standards, including conducting a refresher course on hygiene for licensed food handlers that started on Oct 5.

Last year, contaminated rojak sold at Geylang Serai market led to two deaths and 154 other people falling ill. The same year, NEA made 2,650 citations for infractions such as not using gloves to handle food, and selling contaminated food.

NEA Environmental Health Department operations head Wong Chiu Ying said the agency had stepped up its checks since it hired 28 more officers to supplement the existing team of 63 for some 33,059 licensed food outlets in Singapore.

NEA will also require more than 100,000 licensed food handlers to take a four-hour-long refresher course in hygiene every three years - instead of taking just one basic food hygiene course in their lifetime.

The course will be carried out in phases, with food caterers first, and canteen vendors slated to be the next group in the second phase.

2,456 fines for hygiene lapses