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.” 

How a Hand Hygiene Program Can Help Your Employees Stay Healthy and at Work

Are your employees coming to work sick? The answer is most likely, yes. 

A recent poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that at least half of people who work in very public places, like hospitals and restaurants, report going to work when they have a cold or the flu.[1]

In a recent NPR article, Kirk Smith, who oversees foodborne outbreak investigations for the Minnesota Department of Health, stated that restaurant workers coming in sick is one of the biggest food safety problems there is. So, what can be done to overcome this problem? 

First and foremost, restaurant workers should stay home if they are sick, yet we know that isn’t always possible. But, by offering a comprehensive hand hygiene program, an employer may be able to increase employee wellness and reduce absenteeism.

Following a strong hand hygiene regimen, which includes washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and then using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for extra protection, is one of the most important measures we can all take to reduce the spread of germs that can cause illness. In addition, a recent study published in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that an office equipped with PURELL® Hand Sanitizer and Hand Sanitizing Wipes throughout the workplace recorded 13.4% fewer sick days or unscheduled paid-time-off (PTO) in 2014-2015, as well as 24.3% fewer trips to the doctor for hand hygiene preventable illnesses.[2] This demonstrates the important role hand hygiene plays in helping your workers stay healthy and on the job. 

For more information on this study go to: http://journals.lww.com/joem/Fulltext/2016/06000/Impact_of_a_Comprehensive_Workplace_Hand_Hygiene.25.aspx 

[1] NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Workplace and Health. July 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/documents/2016/jul/HarvardWorkplaceandHealthPollReport.pdf
[2] Arbogast, JW., L. Moore-Schiltz, W. Jarvis, A. Harpster-Hagen, J. Hughes, A. Parker. 2016. “Impact of a Comprehensive Workplace Hand Hygiene Program on Employer Healthcare Insurance Claims plus Costs, Absenteeism, and Employee Perceptions and Practices.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine