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Food safety and tourism in Singapore: between microbial Russian roulette and Michelin stars

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 16:25 authored by Nicole TaruleviczNicole Tarulevicz, Can Seng OoiCan Seng Ooi
Drawing on multiple culinary traditions, foodways, and networks of trade, food is both good and important in Singapore. Brand Singapore relies on food culture to market itself to the world, but also to its citizens. Hawker food, that is, street foods, are at the core of that marketing, becoming a by-word for Singaporean culinary culture. Cheap and delicious food was used to shift Singapore from a stop-over to a destination. But this also reinforces ideas about high and low culture, embodied in what a recent travel blog described as the “golden rule”: “When you’re travelling in Asia, whether you’re in Sri Lanka or Thailand, in Singapore or Vietnam, Malaysia or China, cheap food is the best food.” What makes Singapore distinctive in the framing of ‘cheap Asian food’ is that it is considered much safer, travelers can try new things without engaging in the “microbial Russian roulette of street food” elsewhere. At the same time, regulations and systems that keep people safe can be perceived by tourists to make Singapore, and by extension its culture, too clean, safe, and hygienic. As Singapore emerges as a global food destination with Michelin stared restaurants and a destination-fine-dining culture, the Singapore Tourism Board continues to recreate the Oriental mystique of the destination by cloaking the modern manifestations of Singapore with stories of its Asian and colonial heritage. In focusing on food safety, this paper highlights the tension between high and low food culture, between safe and unsafe, between street food and fine dining, but it also considers how they are being negotiate in Singapore. Taste, its arbiters, makers, and guardians, are raced and hierarchical. Singapore’s food culture provides an example of these orthodoxies are both reinforced and challenged.


Publication title

Tourism Geographies






School of Humanities



Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Socio-cultural issues in tourism; Food safety