Due to a heightened public awareness as a result of all types of media coverage concerning foodborne illnesses, the level of training for employees working in the food industry in general needs to be increased. This is a responsibility that the food industry has to their clients and the general public. Employers have a responsibility to provide a well-designed, informational training program for employees to follow while on the job. It is important that this training be communicated in language that all employees understand. Practices and procedures must be translated for all employees, no matter what language they speak. Proper hygiene practices should be communicated prior to employment and reaffirmed with periodic training programs.
Signs with pictures of good practices are an excellent method to reinforce training. These should be displayed in areas where applicable and be multilingual. Training should be documented and list the employees that have completed it.
Workers can carry pathogens internally and on their hands, skin and hair. It is imperative that they follow and understand basic food protection practices and maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and good sanitation practices to prevent food product contamination. Unless employees understand and follow basic food protection principles, they may unintentionally contaminate food packaging, water and other workers, thereby creating the opportunity to transmit foodborne illness. Employee health and hygiene falls into two categories, cleanliness and disease control.
Personal hygiene begins at home, with the essential elements for good hygiene being a clean body, clean hair and clean clothing. Hair in food can be a source of both microbiological and physical contamination. Hairnets and beard covers should be worn to assure food product integrity. Long-sleeved smocks should be worn to cover arm hair. Clean uniforms, aprons and other outer garments that are put on after the employee gets to work can help minimize contamination. While working, clothing should be kept reasonably clean and in good repair. Removal of smocks, lab coats or aprons should take place when leaving the work area to go to the employee break room, restroom or exiting the building. Personal items such as meals and snacks should be stored in a locker or break room area that is located away from processing areas or areas where equipment and utensils are washed.
The only jewelry allowed in a food plant is a plain wedding band and/or one small post earring in each ear. No other jewelry is to be worn because it may fall into the product, it can present a safety hazard and it cannot be adequately sanitized against bacterial transmission. It should be removed prior to entering the processing facility.
Employees must wear different colored smocks when going from a raw processing part of the establishment to the cooked processing side. They should also step into a sanitizer footbath between the two processing areas to eliminate the bacteria on their shoes.
No employee who is affected with, has been exposed to, or is a carrier of a communicable disease, the flu or a respiratory problem, or any other potential source of microbiological contamination shall work in any area where there is a reasonable possibility that food or food ingredients can be contaminated. The number one symptom of a foodborne illness is diarrhea. Other symptoms include fever, dizziness, vomiting, and sore throat with fever or jaundice. Any employee with these symptoms should not be allowed to work around food.
A company policy should be established requiring that employees report any active case of illness to supervisors before beginning work. If an employee has been diagnosed with a foodborne illness, exclude them from the establishment, and contact the local health department. The health department must be notified if the employee has been diagnosed with one of the following foodborne illnesses: Salmonella typhi, Shigella species, shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or hepatitis A virus.