If food service and retail employees don’t practice proper hand hygiene, they could be serving a side of norovirus with their customers’ orders. Norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food in food service settings are often linked to infected food workers, according to CDC report. These outbreaks can be prevented by educating workers about proper hand hygiene on the job and making sure they stay home when they are sick.
Norovirus is highly contagious and can spread anywhere food is served, making people sick with vomiting and diarrhea. According to the CDC, about 20 million people get sick from norovirus each year. In addition to the risk of a norovirus outbreak, poor hand hygiene will lead to increased illness and can result in:
- Disruption cost and lost productivity through employee absence from work;
- Reduced employee efficiency through illness at work and lower employee morale; and
- Damage to a business’ reputation.
For any organization, implementing and maintaining an appropriate hand hygiene routine is a daily challenge. Employers and facility managers have a legal responsibility to ensure that they provide a safe working environment for their employees—addressing hand hygiene is a vital asset.
Common Norovirus Carriers
According to the CDC, health departments reported 1,008 norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food between 2009 and 2012, most of which occurred in food service settings, such as restaurants, catering, or banquet facilities.
The CDC also looked at foods that were commonly implicated in norovirus outbreaks. Of 324 outbreaks with a specific food item implicated, more than 90 percent were contaminated during final preparation (such as making a sandwich with raw and already cooked ingredients) and 75 percent were foods eaten raw. Leafy vegetables, fruits, and mollusks, such as oysters, were the most common single food categories implicated in these outbreaks.
Best Practices for Clean and Healthy Hands
Wash hands properly and often. Apply a small amount of hand cleanser to dry hands. Rub hands vigorously together for at least 20 seconds. Scrub all surfaces, including the backs of hands, wrists, between the fingers, and under the fingernails. Rinse well and dry hands with a clean or disposable towel. Make sure to use a clean towel to turn off the faucet.