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In the Belly of the Beast

Just south of NUS along the West Coast Highway of Singapore exists the Wholesale Centre where much of the food of Singapore is traded. It is right along the port, so there are imports coming in from all around the region including Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, China, and Indonesia. The centre is quite large and is divided into blocks for the various types of foodstuffs. As an individual you are still able to buy goods without any special certificate, but I’m not sure if all vendors would be willing to sell their goods at small quantities.


We had the opportunity to chat with one of the purchasers who did the sourcing for various franchises such as Wendy’s and McDonalds. He was actually an ex US Marine and had lived in several cities in America. He gave us the lowdown on the inspection process the AVA implements for goods being sold at the market.

Goods are randomly selected to be tested for a certain level of chemical. The AVA marks the pallets being tested with red tape. The vendor has the opportunity to discard the selected batch before it is tested or undergo testing. If they submit to the test and the batch fails, the vendor is fined (I believe $250) and then has to undergo a series of 10 more chemical tests. If they fail these tests they are band from being able to sell at the market for 3 months at which time they must pass additional tests before resuming sales.

The fact that the vendor is able to throw their goods away, take a loss on that particular shipment, and complete forgo being tested was a bit shocking. It wasn’t certain whether opting for this path put vendors on any sort of watch list. We were informed that these regulations are being reviewed to improve the legitimacy of the process, but it wasn’t clear what the actual likeliness and timeline of these changes were.

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