Why Do Flu Outbreaks Happen in the Winter?

Why Do Flu Outbreaks Happen in the Winter?

Why is it when the temperatures outside become colder we see a peak in illnesses, like the flu?

Many of us may ask ourselves this question and wonder why people tend to be sick especially during the winter months. And, if you have asked yourself that question, you are not alone. In fact, researchers have always sought to find the answer.

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Bringing You Food Safety Trends and Information in the New Year!

Bringing You Food Safety Trends and Information in the New Year!

We're committed to the continued delivery of timely and relevant information on food safety best practices and insights on foodborne illnesses, and look forward to providing more of the latest topics and trends impacting the foodservice industry throughout 2018.

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How Can You Prevent the Spread of Hepatitis A?

How Can You Prevent the Spread of Hepatitis A?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that is usually transmitted either through person-to-person contact or through consumption of contaminated food or water[1]. It is usually transmitted when an infected person has not properly washed his or her hands after using the restroom or before preparing and eating food.

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Handwashing: Cool Water as Effective as Hot for Removing Germs

Handwashing: Cool Water as Effective as Hot for Removing Germs

We all know that washing our hands can keep us from spreading germs and getting sick. But a new study I co-authored with GOJO scientists and published in the Journal of Food Protection found that cool water is just as effective as hot water in removing bacteria from the hands. People should use a comfortable water temperature when they are washing their hands, but our study shows us that water temperature didn’t matter. 

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5 Steps to Food Safety Hand Hygiene

Having a strong food safety program and culture of cleanliness within a restaurant is critical to its overall health. And, the foundation of both is focused on the importance of restaurant workers practicing good hand hygiene at key moments.

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What are the Best Methods for Preventing Norovirus Outbreaks?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 250 different types of foodborne illnesses.  Yet, norovirus is among the most common. In fact, norovirus is responsible for over 50 percent of foodborne illnesses in the United States , and restaurants are one of the most common sources of an outbreak. So, how does a restaurant reduce its risk of a norovirus outbreak?

The FDA recently released a study in the latest issue of Risk Analysis, the scholarly journal of the Society for Risk Analysis,  that took a closer look at the methods restaurant workers can take to reduce the spread of norovirus. The study’s findings were not unique; in fact, they supported what is already included the FDA Food Code. And, if workers follow this advice according to this study, the spread of norovirus could be drastically reduced. These preventive measures include:

  • Stay home if you are ill,
  • Washing your hands before preparing food,
  • Wearing gloves when preparing food, and
  • Not touching ready-to-eat food with bare hands.

This research confirms the fact that a strong food safety program focused on employee hygiene is critical to reduce the spread of foodborne illnesses. In addition, since there is not one single way to prevent norovirus, this study found that the best method of prevention to is to fully comply with and follow the prevention strategies outlined in the Food Code. 

Learn more about norovirus and its spread in the bulletin, “The Importance of Norovirus: Why You Should Have a Good Safety Program to Control Its Spread.” 

Helping Your Workers Stay Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

It’s February, and that can only mean one thing…it’s cold and flu season. It’s the time of the year when both your employees and guests might bring with them coughs and sneezes into the restaurant. So, how can you help your employees stay healthy during this time of the year?

The flu vaccine and diligent hygiene are important measures everyone should practice this time of the year to help reduce the spread of germs that can cause illness. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[1] (CDC) recommends the following actions:

  1. Take the time to get a flu vaccine. According to the CDC, even though it is already February, it’s not too late to get a flu shot since flu activity can last until May.
  2. Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs. This includes washing your hands often with soap and water, and if soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  3. Take flu antiviral drugs, if your doctor prescribes them.

Another important element to cold and flu prevention is to sanitize and clean frequently touched surfaces with products specifically designed to kill these viruses. At work and in our homes, we all touch a variety of surfaces throughout the day. From doorknobs, to kitchen and break room counters/tables, to light switches, germs that can cause illness are easily transferred from one person to the next via the surfaces we touch. This is why it is important to sanitize and clean both hard and soft surfaces frequently as well as objects such as restaurant menus. Also, always sanitize and disinfect food-preparation surfaces with a sanitizer and disinfectant specifically formulated for those surfaces. 

While you cannot prevent sick guests from coming into your restaurant, you can help your employees stay healthy by sharing with them these tips.

1. CDC Says Three Actions to Fight the Flu, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm

Risk-Based Handwashing

Changing behaviors within your current culture

The challenge of handwashing in foodservice is rooted in basic human behavior. If the would-be washer can see no reward, he or she becomes a non-washer; this is even true for managers. Handwashing simply becomes a matter of custom, comfort or convenience with no connection to the actual risk. The complexity of a sustainable solution results in operators attacking one barrier at a time, but a holistic approach has a much better chance of success.

Real issues abound. Barriers of language, culture, turnover, absenteeism, productivity, hand sink location, empty dispensers, skin irritation and training time frequently come up as challenges to handwashing at key moments. However, the reality is there is no measurement for a clean hand, no standards for frequency and seldom are employees disciplined for not washing their hands. These barriers actually protect the status quo and endanger the life of the customer, staff and the very business itself.

Handwashing competes with the highly valued indicators of productivity on which managers and staff are measured and rewarded. The risk of a foodborne outbreak is already high but getting much higher by virtue of the current trends in rising punitive damages and threatened executive jail time. Advancements in science like Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) have equipped the CDC Pulse-Net labs with the capability to identify outbreaks previously missed by first-generation systems. 

Measuring Handwashing
Risk management must play a larger role in fixing the time-hardened handwash behaviors. The answer is in process control for which numbers are needed -numbers to reach and sustain goals via the built-in employee Performance Review structure. The steps for a sustainable solution are to first assess the risk, set standards, set the conditions for success, train and finally monitor to motivate the needed behavior change.

The Handwashing For Life Institute has developed tools to help change handwashing behavior. All of these lead to measurement as a way to motivate and sustain hand cleanliness levels and the behaviors required. 

High-touch surfaces frequently harbor pathogens. High levels of pathogens remain invisible but are more likely to cross-contaminate than those surfaces frequently cleaned and measured with either ATP or UV tracing systems. The measurement increases the cleaning frequency.

Handwashing effectiveness can be given a number by using invisible tracing lotion and scanning with a UV light to illuminate areas missed. This training method adds visual impact that helps a workforce better understand the need for a thorough wash. 

A safe-level frequency of washing hands is an important standard to engage the staff in setting. The number is always imprecise, but it is reached through collaboration with peers and their managers. The most dramatic improvement in handwash frequency occurs with the addition of electronic logging of actual washes and comparing them to the employee-agreed safe level standard. In addition, some firms have developed electronic monitoring solutions to help measure and ensure compliance.

Data converts randomness to a process and drives a sustainable handwashing solution. Handwashing becomes clearly understood as a critical risk-based behavior. Now success can be calibrated, celebrated and perpetuated.