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Help Prevent Norovirus Outbreaks in the Food Service Industry

Help Prevent Norovirus Outbreaks in the Food Service Industry

Did you know that norovirus outbreaks are most common from November through April? It can occur anywhere people gather or where food is consumed and or served. Infected people can transmit to others through close contact and by contaminating food or surfaces. Those who work in foodservice who have the virus can easily contaminate food and rapidly infect mass amounts of people. However, there are ways to prevent the spread of outbreaks in the industry such as following proper food safety practices.

Consider these Norovirus statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Roughly 20 million people get sick from norovirus each year.
  • The No. 1 cause of outbreaks in the United States is contaminated food.
  • Infected workers cause 70% of reported outbreaks.

Norovirus outbreaks occurring from contaminated food are very common throughout the foodservice industry because employees often go to work when they are sick, which has a high probability of causing food contamination. Of those outbreaks caused by infected employees, 54% involve employees touching ready-to-consumer foods with bare hands. These are foods that are ready to be served without additional preparation, such fresh fruit and vegetables or items that have already been baked or cooked.

The virus is hard to kill. It stays on food, surfaces, and utensils, and it can remain infectious even at freezing temperatures or until  food is above 140°F. In addition, it can stay on surfaces for up to two weeks after contact. It can be challenging to get rid of, as it can be resistant to many common sanitizers and disinfectants.

To prevent its spread, foodservice professionals can:

  • Adhere to food safety laws and regulations.
  • Certify designated kitchen managers and train foodservice employees in proper food safety practices.
  • Establish policies that require employees to stay home when sick and for at least 48 hours after symptoms stop.
  • Consider measures like paid sick leave and a staffing plan that includes on-call employees to encourage sick employees to stay home.

Foodservice workers can:

  • Inform a manager when sick with symptoms of norovirus.
  • Wash hands diligently and frequently with soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds.
  • Use disposable gloves to avoid touching ready-to-eat foods with bare hands. 
  • Regularly clean and sanitize surfaces and frequently touched objects, using a chlorine-based product or sanitizer approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use against norovirus.
  • Immediately clean and disinfect areas where there has been a symptom present.
  • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables and avoid serving undercooked shellfish and poultry.

Due to the nature of the foodservice industry, where handling of food is prominent, the use of disposable gloves is common. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requires all employees to wash their hands if they make contact with food. However, in the role of preventing norovirus, food-safe disposable gloves are the most effective means of barrier protection. Vinyl disposable gloves are ideal for foodservice, as they are light-duty and cost effective, which is necessary when employees don multiple pairs throughout a shift. The use of disposable gloves is crucial in protecting employees and consumers against foodborne illness and contamination. Stock up on food-safe vinyl and nitrile disposable gloves today at Zoomget to help prevent the spread of illness and disease in your restaurant, bakery, or other foodservice business.

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