askST: Do food handlers have to wear masks?

Reader Albert Tang wrote to askST: "Why do the authorities not request the operators of food stalls to use masks?"

He noted that in his travels to China, Korea and Taiwan, food handlers will wear masks for hygiene purposes.

Environment reporter Audrey Tan checked with the National Environment Agency for an answer.

SINGAPORE - Food handlers in the Republic are encouraged to wear face masks to ensure that food sold to consumers is safe and hygienic.

But it is not mandatory for them to do so, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

"The wearing of face masks is a good practice that is encouraged. However, it is not a mandatory requirement for food handlers as we need to take into consideration the practicality of wearing face masks in our hot and humid weather conditions," said a spokesman from the agency.

But there are other ways that food stalls can ensure that food sold to customers is clean.

"This includes ensuring that food handlers, namely those handling and preparing food or beverages, have undergone the requisite food hygiene training stipulated by NEA, and are observing good hygiene practices in their daily work," said the NEA spokesman.

Food handlers are encouraged to wear face masks to ensure that food sold to consumers is safe and hygienic. PHOTO: ST FILE

When handling food, food handlers should don gloves and wash their hands frequently between tasks. They must also not work if they are unwell, she added.

Licensed food retail operators have a public duty to ensure the food they sell to consumers is safe and hygienic.

NEA said its hygiene inspectors will also inspect food premises and remind food handlers of the importance of observing proper food and personal hygiene practices.

The agency urged members of the public to support operators who observe good hygiene practices, and report those with potential hygiene lapses to NEA at 1800-2255632 or via the MyENV app.