As part of licensing requirements for food establishments, food handlers* are required to wear a mask or spit guard to prevent them from coughing or sneezing onto and contaminating food during the food preparation and handling process.
*Food handlers working in mask-on zones as defined in the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Reopening — Control Order) (Amendment No. 6) Regulations 2022 must wear masks and are not allowed to wear a spit guard. Please refer to MOH's advisory for more information on mask-on zones.
Activities where mask/spit guard is required
Personnel are required to put on masks/spit guards if they are involved in the following activities:
- Preparation of ingredients and/or cooking of food
- Packing of cooked and/or Ready-to-Eat food
- Dishing of cooked and/or Ready-to-Eat food
- Preparation of drinks
This applies to personnel in retail food establishments such as restaurants, takeaways, food shops within pubs/bars/nightclubs/discos, caterers, street hawkers handling / preparing ready-to-eat food for sale (e.g. ice cream), and foodstalls in hawker centers, coffee shops, canteens, food courts and temporary fairs (i.e. hawker and coffee shop assistants dishing cooked food will need to wear face masks or spit guards).It also applies to personnel in market stalls, market produce shops, and supermarkets that are engaged in the above activities. Examples include cooked char siew meat stalls in wet markets, and sushi, roast meat, and deli counters in supermarkets where there is handling of cooked/ready-to-eat food.
The requirement also applies to personnel in non-retail food establishments, which includes food manufacturers, central kitchens, meat, fish, and egg processing establishments, and slaughterhouses.
Masks and spit guards worn by food handlers should cover their mouth and nose. Masks may be disposable (e.g. paper masks, surgical masks, N95 masks) or reusable (e.g. cloth masks). For an overview on the use of masks and spit guards, please refer to the following poster (English, Chinese, Malay, Tamil).
SFA will not hesitate to take firm action against anyone who does not comply with the mask or spit guard-wearing requirement.
Activities where mask/spit guard is not required
Personnel involved in the following activities are not required to put on masks/spit guards:
- Bringing plated food to consumers
- Delivery of packed/bento food to consumers
- Cleaning activities (e.g. collection of used crockery/utensils, washing or cleaning of dining tables)
- Stocking and storing of pre-packed goods
- Collection of payments from consumers
- Sale of raw and/or non-Ready-to-Eat market produce
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why are spit guards allowed to be worn by food handlers?
Masks or spit guards are worn by food handlers to prevent them from coughing or sneezing onto and contaminating food during the food preparation and handling process. From a food safety perspective, the concern is with the exhalation rather than inhalation of aerosol droplets. SFA has assessed that spit guards and masks are suitable physical barriers to block respiratory particles from being released through respiratory or oral means and prevent the contamination of food from sneezing or coughing.
2. Why are face shields not allowed to be worn by food handlers?
Face shields are not considered effective physical barriers as they have a large gap at the bottom of the shield which can cause food contamination, as opposed to spit guards, which have bottom-up impermeable plastic shields that cover the mouth and nose.
3. What will happen if a food handler does not comply with mask wearing?
SFA will take action against a licensee who is found to be in breach of the licensing condition issued under the Environmental Public Health Act 1987 (“EHPA”), Sale of Food Act 1973 (“SOFA”) and Wholesome Meat and Fish Act 1999 (“WMFA”).
4. I have a food handler that does not listen and always takes off his/her mask, will I get fined as an operator?
It is the licensee’s responsibility to put in place adequate systems and monitoring to ensure that their personnel engaged in the list of activities where mask/spit guard is required comply with the requirement on wearing of mask/spit guard. Failure to do so will result in enforcement against the licensee.
5. Will SFA require us to change our mask on a fixed frequency? Will we be fined if spit guards are dirty?
It is stipulated in the relevant Acts and Regulations that personnel handling food shall wear clean attire, which includes a clean mask/spit guard. Enforcement may be taken against the offender if they are observed to be wearing a dirty attire.
Guidelines on maintenance and replacement of masks/spit guards
- Change disposable masks (paper, surgical or N95 masks) when they become moist, soiled or damaged. Disposable masks should only be used once and disposed promptly after use.
- When reusable cloth masks or spit guard masks are used, thoroughly wash them with soap and water regularly, and dry before re-use. Replace them if they are worn-out.
- Observe hand hygiene after the masks are removed or changed such as washing hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based sanitisers.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on maintenance of masks and spit guards.
- Follow the guidelines issued by HPB or HSA on the use, removal, maintenance, and disposal of masks
6. Where can I purchase spit guards?
Spit guards may be purchased from most online e-commerce platforms as well as kitchen equipment suppliers.
7. For meat, fish, and egg processing lines, since the workers are handling raw food, why are they still required to wear masks/spit guards?
As meat, fish and egg processing establishments are involved in large-scale production of food, personnel may be engaged in handling of raw food and cooked food. To ensure food safety and minimise potential contamination along the entire production line, SFA requires all personnel to wear a mask/spit guard while working within the premise.
8. Cold stores are listed as exceptions in the “Meat, Fish, Egg Processing Establishments and Cold Stores” category. Why are they exempted?
Personnel involved in the stocking and storing of pre-packed goods at cold stores are not required to wear masks/spit guards as the food products are pre-packed and the risk of contamination of the food is low.
9. Are slaughterhouse workers required to wear masks/spit guards?
Slaughterhouse workers currently don on personal protective attire, which include masks. Nonetheless, with effect from 8 Sep 2022, the licensing conditions for slaughterhouses will specify that masks are to be worn as part of slaughterhouse workers’ personal protective attire to ensure food safety and protect the workers from diseases from the animals (e.g. bird flu).