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5.1 Personal Health and Illnesses

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  1. Operators of food premises should ensure that all staff engaged in food handling are:
    1. free from any symptomatic signs of illnesses or communicable diseases such as diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, sore throat, abdominal pain and jaundice, etc.;
    2. not carriers of food-borne diseases e.g. cholera, hepatitis type A; and
    3. not suffering from discharging wounds or sores on any exposed part of their bodies; or from discharge from their ears, eyes or noses.
  2. Food handlers suffering or suspected to be suffering from a communicable disease should immediately report their illness or symptoms of illness to the management and seek medical treatment. They should be immediately suspended from engaging in any work that may allow them to come into contact with food, food contact surfaces, food utensils and equipment.
  3. Food handlers ordered by health officers to cease working or taking part in food business should have written clearance from health officers before returning to handle food.

Note: Any person who permits persons suffering from a condition mentioned in (a) or (c) to take part in food handling activities commits an offence under section 24 of the Food Business Regulation.

5.1.1 Injuries

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  1. Food handlers with open cuts or wounds on the exposed parts of their bodies should not be allowed to handle food or to come into contact with food utensils, equipment and food contact surfaces, unless such cuts / wounds are completely protected by impermeable or waterproof gloves or dressings.
  2. Bandages or dressings should preferably not be in flesh-colour, so that they can be easily detected on falling off.
  3. Bandages and dressings should be changed regularly.

Note: Any person who engages in handling of food in any food business with open cuts or abrasions on the exposed part of the body not covered with a suitable waterproof dressing commits an offence under section 22(c) of the Food Business Regulation.


Several types of communicable diseases can be transmitted by consumption of food. Food handlers should eliminate the opportunity for pathogenic micro-organisms from being transferred to food and spread to consumers.

Food handlers can carry communicable diseases, especially if they themselves have been infected. Some food poisoning bacteria are commonly found on open wounds or cuts of their bodies. Illnesses may be spread to consumers if food handlers suffering from illnesses or with open wounds are allowed to take part in food activities.

5.2 Personal Hygiene

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Food handlers should keep all parts of their bodies and clothing clean.

  1. Hair
    1. Food handlers should preferably keep their hair short.
    2. In the course of handling food, hair should be covered with a clean hat or hair net. Long hair should be tied back as well.
    3. Combing of hair should not be conducted in food handling areas.
  2. Jewelry and Perfume
    1. Food handlers should have their watches, rings and jewelry removed before they work with food. Jewelry which may easily become detached should not be worn while handling food to avoid them from falling on the food and cause contamination.
    2. Heavy make-up, strong perfume or aftershave should be avoided.
  3. Clothing and Personal Effects
    1. Food handlers should wear disposable gloves when handling ready-to-eat food. They should be discarded if damaged, soiled, or when interruptions occur in the operation.
    2. Food handlers should, as far as possible, wear mouth masks when handling food. They should be discarded when damaged, soiled, or after prolonged use.
    3. Only clean and light coloured outer clothing or protective overalls should be worn by food handlers. If they become soiled during food preparation, they should be changed or cleaned as necessary.

      Note: Failure to observe this is a breach of licensing condition.

    4. Buttons should preferably be avoided on the clothing as they may come off and fall on the food.
    5. Shoes should be worn when handling food.
    6. Personal effects, such as handbags, footwear, umbrellas and dirty clothing, should not be stored or left in any food preparation area. They should be put inside lockers or cloakrooms away from food preparation areas.

      Note: Failure to observe this is a breach of licensing condition.

  4. Hands
    1. Hands of food handlers should be kept clean at all times. Nails should be kept short and unpolished.
    2. Cuts or wounds on hands of food handlers should be completely covered by suitable waterproof dressings or gloves.
    3. Food handlers should wash their hands:
      • before commencing work;
      • before handling food;
      • after visiting the toilet;
      • after handling raw food;
      • after handling soiled equipment or utensils;
      • after coughing, sneezing, smoking, eating, drinking or blowing nose;
      • after handling animals or waste;
      • after touching their ears, noses, hair, mouths or other parts of their bodies; or
      • after engaging in any activities that may contaminate hands. (e.g. handling money, carrying out cleaning duties, etc.)
    4. Staff engaged in food handling should not be allowed to handle cash simultaneously.

      Note: Failure to observe this is a breach of licensing condition.

    5. Handwashing should be frequent, thorough and performed in wash hand basins. The following proper procedures should be adopted for washing hands:
      • wet the hands with running water, preferably with warm water;
      • apply liquid soap;
      • rub hands for 20 seconds (wash all surfaces thoroughly, including forearms, wrists, palms, back of hands, fingers and under fingernails);
      • if necessary, use a clean and sanitary nail brush to clean nails;
      • rinse hands thoroughly;
      • dry hands with a clean paper towel, continuous cloth towel in dispenser or air dryer;
      • turn off the tap with a paper towel.

      Note: A food handler who fails to keep all parts of his body or clothing which may come into contact with food in a clean condition commits an offence under section 22(a) or section 22(b) of the Food Business Regulation.

5.2.1 Personal Habits

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  1. Inside food preparation areas, food handlers should refrain from performing the following behaviours which may result in contamination of food:
    1. smoking or using tobacco;
    2. spitting;
    3. chewing, eating, sneezing or coughing over unprotected food or food contact surfaces;
    4. touching ready-to-eat food with bare hands;
    5. sitting, lying or standing on any surface liable to come into contact with food;
    6. tasting food with fingers; and
    7. touching hair or other parts of bodies such as noses, eyes or ears.
  2. When sneezing or coughing inside food preparation area is unavoidable, food handlers should turn away from food and cover their noses and mouths with tissue paper or handkerchieves. Hands should then be thoroughly cleaned at once.


  1. Smoking in food room or smoking while handling open food is an offence under section 22(d) of the Food Business Regulation.
  2. Spitting in food room is an offence under section 9 of the Food Business Regulation.
  3. Lying, sitting or standing on tables or surfaces that will come into contact with food is an offence under section 18 of the Food Business Regulation.


Pathogens are commonly found on the skin and in the noses of healthy people. Scratching the head and nose can result in bacteria being transferred by hands onto food, which may cause illnesses to customers. Smoking in food rooms may cause food contamination by cigarette ends, ashes or hands.

Prevention of foodborne illnesses should begin with good personal hygiene practices by food handlers in both personal cleanliness and habits to prevent contamination of food by pathogens.

5.3 Training of Food Handlers

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5.3.1 Awareness and Responsibilities

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All personnel involved in food businesses should be aware of their role and responsibility in protecting food from contamination or deterioration. They should:

  1. put the health and safety of customers first and regard this as a social responsibility;
  2. familiarize with the standards and requirements stipulated in the law and those promulgated by the Government, and strict observance is necessary to foster a strong sense of hygiene;
  3. study and adopt the best hygiene practices in food handling;
  4. exercise constant care and vigilance in supervising the preparation, production, handling and serving of food; and
  5. constantly improve the hygiene standards of their food premises.

5.3.2 Training Programmes

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  1. Persons engaged in food operations should be trained or instructed in food hygiene and safety to a level appropriate to the operations they are to perform. All training programmes should be based on the level of food safety risk in the food premises. Factors for assessing the level of food safety risk include:
    1. the nature of food and its ability to sustain growth of pathogenic or spoilage bacteria;
    2. the manner in which food is handled or served;
    3. the complexity of processes involved; and
    4. the size of business and types of customer to be served.
  2. The management of food premises should promote food safety training to their employees by conducting on-going in-house courses for them or arranging them to participate in courses run by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department or institutions recognized by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
  3. Courses should meet the learning outcomes i.e. the ability to judge potential risks and to take correct remedial actions. They could be tailor-made to suit the specific need of a particular trade. Participants should be able to demonstrate competencies through standard testing. Certificates may be issued to successful candidates.
  4. Periodic assessment of the effectiveness of training and instruction programmes should be made. Refresher training may be required should deterioration in safe food handling practices to pre-trained level be detected after a certain period of time.
  5. Records indicating those employees who have been trained and their relevant particulars should be maintained by the management.

5.3.3 Supervision

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Food business should always be supervised by a person who has attended a recognized food hygiene course. He should keep his certificate or other relevant documentary proof at the food premises and be readily available for inspection on demand.

Note: Failure to observe this is a breach of licensing condition.


Food safety depends heavily on the ways in which food is handled. Provision of training to food handlers is important as they are required to constantly make decisions and take actions that could affect food safety. Food handlers should have the knowledge and skills on how to handle food hygienically and comply with the food safety regulations through proper and regular training.

Though the government has an irreplaceable role to play in ensuring food safety in food business, the food trade also has a pivotal part to play. To ensure their employees receive an appropriate training should inevitably be one of their responsibilities in contributing to food safety.