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NEA clarifies diners not obligated to wipe tables, responding to video of officers’ instructions at Tekka Food Centre

The National Environment Agency (NEA) clarified that diners aren’t required to wipe tables at public eating areas, but urged against leaving litter on or around them.

This clarification came after a viral video showed a diner questioning NEA enforcement officers about cleaning responsibilities, particularly regarding food or drink spills.



SINGAPORE: On Tuesday (Oct 17), the National Environment Agency (NEA) clarified that diners are not obligated to wipe their tables at public eating areas.

However, they emphasized that leaving behind litter on or around the tables is not permissible.

This clarification from the agency was prompted by a video circulating on social media, showcasing an encounter between two individuals claiming to be NEA enforcement officers and a diner outside Tekka Market and Hawker Centre on Saturday.

The dispute regarding the specifics of new regulations for cleaning public dining areas has brought attention to a potential discrepancy or misinterpretation within these rules by the two officers.

Confusion over requirement to wipe tables clean alongside tray returns

A diner, identified as Pankaj, recently took to TikTok to recount his disagreement with two individuals purporting to be NEA enforcement officers regarding the regulations.

In the video, he challenged the two officers about the extent of the diner’s responsibility in cleaning the table, particularly concerning food or drink spillages.

While Pankaj believed the mandate only required diners to clear solid waste and return trays and utensils, the officers insisted that diners should also wipe the table clean of any spills.

The heated exchange between Pankaj and the officers revolves around the clarification and perhaps the ambiguity of the guidelines, “Are you saying to me that if I dirty the table, I am supposed to wipe the table?”

Pankaj was recorded saying. The officers affirmed, adding that it is indeed the responsibility of diners to ensure the table is clear and clean after their meal.

The viral video has sparked an influx of online reactions, leaving many netizens both surprised and perplexed by the extent of the cleaning obligations.


NEA’s response

In a Facebook post on Tuesday (17 Oct), the NEA addressed the video involving the NEA enforcement officer and a diner outside Tekka Market and Hawker Centre.

The agency confirmed issuing a warning to the diner for not clearing his glass and drink can upon leaving the table.

NEA reiterated that while wiping tables is not mandatory, it emphasizes that leaving any litter behind, such as tissues, wet wipes, drink cans, shells, or bones, is unacceptable.

“We encourage diners to keep the table clean as a gesture of courtesy to the next diner, “ added NEA.

NEA’s Clean Tables Campaign

In May 2021, the NEA mandated that diners in public places must clear their tables of used trays, crockery, and litter after meals, in line with Section 17(1) of the Environmental Public Health Act (EPHA).

Offences under this section could invite a range of penalties, including fines up to S$2,000.

As of 1 June 2023, first-time offenders who don’t return their used items will receive a written warning, second-time offenders will be slapped with a S$300 composition fine, and further offences could incur court fines.

A review of previous NEA announcements and news reports, including a joint press release on 30 August 2021, reveals no explicit mention of the obligation for diners to wipe tables clean of spillages, indicating a possible miscommunication or misinterpretation of the regulations in place.

The NEA’s statement did mention that it constitutes an offence if a diner clears their tray and dirty crockery but neglects to remove items such as tissues, empty drink cans, and food remnants like shells and bones from the dining table. Furthermore, the NEA emphasized that allowing litter to be blown onto the floor in a public place without picking it up constitutes a littering offence.

Regarding situations where gravy or drink is accidentally spilled on the dining table, the NEA, as stated in the August 2021 press release, expressed a “pragmatic approach” to enforcement.

“NEA will not take enforcement action for such instances. As much as practicable, diners can help to clean the spilled gravy or drink and keep the table clean.”

The NEA’s 2021 statement also clarified that cleaners will assist in removing trays, dirty crockery and litter left behind by the previous diner, highlighting the importance of every diner returning their trays and dirty crockery, and keeping the tables clean for the next diner.
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Anyway NEA clarification sounds like a No Blaming Culture answer, no apology for the officers’ Big-Balls behavior, no mention what NEA will do to prevent such floundering of authority, nothing on why such abuse of power is allowed.

The 2 NEA officers are very likely the 61% – because then the pappies give them badges to wear, can go around acting like big-F’s.

NEA enforcer should check on the trays. In some hawker centers, the trays were not washed at all. You can see stain and mouldy marks on the trays.

I have photos, but unable to post here.

To see and watch the same circus of dogs, barking, biting and fcuking each other is so rewarding. The Singaporeans dogs are so pathetic, however, this is the beauty of it all becuase exactly the society cannot fathom to function with barking and farking dogs.

At least the NEA has confirmed what most of us knew all along – no wiping of the table is required. Now there are three things for NEA to do: 1) get the two officers to apologise publicly for their mistake 2) somebody must make sure the two officers understand the rules better. If a retraining is required, do it. 3) an internal memo must communicate to the rest of NEA enforcement officers of this incident and to reiterate the correct rule to uphold or apply. The diner should feel vindicated but we must note he was given a warning… Read more »

Had this incident not gone viral …
I’m sure NEA would continue asking patrons to wipe the tables.

Can send this 2 to Skill upgrading .

Looks like all NEA enforcement officers cum ambassadors cum jobsworthmen and women, … are desperately due a refresher and reacquainting course/seminar !!!

Just ensure it’s conducted in Singlish, … in avoidance of any further communication flip~flops !!!

This is a fine example of classic poor explanation and dissemination of public policy matters.

Talents? Best of the cream? Balls? Political slaves, yes.