The Definition of a Food Handler and Who is Considered a Food Handler?

The food and beverage industries are well regulated by various food and food safety laws. The reason is to keep the end consumer safe from harmful food products.

At the core of these industries are food handlers who play a vital role in Food Safety.

Let’s look at the definition of a food handler, who is considered a food handler and why this is vital information.

The Definition of a Food Handler

Food handler means any person who during their normal daily work routine in a food-handling enterprise, directly handles or comes into contact with packaged or unpackaged food, food equipment and utensils, or food contact surfaces.

Who is Considered a Food Handler?

One might think this is obvious. Any person who works with or handles food is considered a food handler.

This is true, but what about other employees not directly handling food?

If you look at the definition of a food handler you will notice something that many food-handling enterprises don’t consider.

Persons that also come in contact with packaged or unpackaged food; the equipment and utensils food come in contact with; and food contact surfaces.

If anyone serves, touches or cleans any of the items listed, they are also considered food handlers.

Examples of the Not so Obvious Food Handler

The following employees can also be considered food handlers and are often missed as such by food handling enterprises:

  • Cleaners
  • Cashiers
  • Food servers / waiters
  • Drivers
  • Packers
  • Receiving and dispatch personnel
  • Managers / supervisors
  • Bartenders

To only mention a few. It all depends on the risk a person may pose to the safety of food products, including beverages.

Why Is It Important to Identify Food Handlers?

Is it important to identify all food handlers in a food handling environment? What’s the deal?

Yes, it is important. Food handlers can contaminate food products and don’t even know they do it. The end consumer may suffer from this negligence.

To avoid or reduce food safety incidents, all food handlers must be properly trained in Food Safety. Every food handler needs to understand the risks involved.

This is not only the responsibility of every food handling enterprise but also a legal requirement in most countries.

Except for Food Safety training many countries’ laws also require pre-employment and/or yearly medical screening for food handlers.

Some illnesses and diseases can be transferred from food handlers to food products and food contact surfaces.


It’s important to understand the definition of a food handler to identify all food handlers in a food handling enterprise.

Food Safety training is crucial for all food handlers and medical screening is compulsory to identify certain diseases that may affect Food Safety.

Have you identified all your food handlers?

Do you know your country/state/region’s Food Safety laws, including the medical screening dos and don’ts?

Please drop us a comment in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you.

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