Norovirus is the most common source of illness in foodborne illness investigations conducted by sanitarians. Commonly known as Noro, this disease is unique because it has multiple modes of transmission including person-to-person, infected food/water to person, or infected surfaces to workers’ hands to food. The virus can also be distributed over several feet by air when a person vomits, often landing on surfaces that then become contaminated.
When investigating foodborne illness complaints, sanitarians routinely ask if persons with gastrointestinal symptoms witnessed anyone else become sick within the last week. Oftentimes, they were present and helped clean up an ill person’s body fluids, thereby infecting themselves. Knowing this makes it critical to have a body fluid clean-up policy and kit in your restaurant.
Developing a Body Fluid Clean-Up Policy
Preparedness is the key to preventing the spread of a foodborne illness like Norovirus. In the event of an incident where body fluids become exposed, we recommend creating a body fluid clean-up policy and accompanying clean-up kit.
The policy will outline the proper procedures for removing the fluids, and the clean-up kit will ensure that the job is done correctly. These steps include:
- Wearing protective clothing covers, gloves and using disposable paper towels while cleaning up solid and liquid body fluid to help protect themselves from infecting their hands and clothing.
- Scrubbing the soiled surfaces with a detergent and rinsing with a clear water solution using a thick rag to protect their hands.
- Using an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved surface disinfectant that is indicated for effective elimination of Noro. Some of these disinfectants require a final rinse or even a wash>rinse>disinfect process following the initial concentration to eliminate the potential for chemical contamination after use. Be sure to follow label instructions for dwell times and concentration levels, as they can differ by product. For ease of use, a pre-mixed product is suggested. If mixing is required, always assess the concentration with an approved test kit to ensure both worker safety and effective elimination of Norovirus.
The kit should contain a surface disinfectant that is formulated to kill Norovirus and other foodborne pathogens, several pairs of gloves, a disposable outfit with booties to cover the shoes, a few clean wiping cloths and other supplies needed to safely eliminate body fluids. Detailed instructions should be available for use of both the kit and the surface disinfectant. If the surface disinfectant used is diluted from a concentrate, then either mixing instructions or a test kit should be available to ensure proper concentrations.
In addition, staff training is essential and should become a regular component of your operational schedule. Employees must understand the importance of cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, especially food contact surfaces. If they know how to properly protect themselves and handle body fluid clean up, they can fill a critical role by safeguarding customers from the effects of foodborne illness.
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