According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 250 different types of foodborne illnesses. Yet, there is one that is the most common – norovirus. In fact, norovirus is responsible for 58% of domestically acquired foodborne illnesses, and nearly half of all foodborne disease outbreaks due to known agents.
Norovirus, also commonly known as the “stomach flu,” is often associated with shellfish and ready-to-eat foods, those foods that have a lot of human handling just prior to eating. However, fruits and vegetables are increasingly being recognized as a source of many foodborne disease outbreaks. And, this is why researchers from The Ohio State University took a closer look and discovered that lettuce is a strong vehicle of norovirus transmission.
For restaurant owners and operators, this study not only provides insight into sources of norovirus transmission, but it also serves as a reminder for the need to have safe food handling procedures in place, which include:
- Handwashing stations should be readily available, conveniently located and stocked at all times
- All restrooms (for employees and patrons) should be cleaned frequently and regularly
- Have written guidelines for the cleanup of vomiting or diarrhea episodes in the facility
- Select disinfectants having anti-noroviral claims, but be aware that efficacy claims do not always mean the product eliminates the virus completely. It is best to clean first, sanitize next. Employees applying these products should be knowledgeable in their safe use, effective concentrations and contact times
- Consider the whole facility in food safety planning
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foodborne Germs and Illnesses. Retrieved May 8, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html
. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Burden of Norovirus Illness and Outbreaks. Retrieved May 8, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/php/illness-outbreaks.html
. Gao, X., Esseili, M., Zhongyan, L., Saif, L. and Qiuhong, W. Recognition of Histo-Blood Group Antigen-Like Carbohydrates in Lettuce by Human GII.4 Norovirus. Applied Environmental Microbiology, v. 82, 10. May 2016