Norovirus and Lettuce: The Perfect Combination?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 250 different types of foodborne illnesses.[1] 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.[2]

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Get Your Restaurant Ready. Summer Travel Season is Here.

It’s hard to believe but summer and the summer travel season is almost here. This upcoming weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and soon people will be hitting the road for vacations, trips to see family and friends and other fun activities. And, most likely their travel will include a stop to relax and grab a bite to eat. With more than 39.3 million US travelers expected to take to the road, skies, rails and water this Memorial Day weekend[1], now is the perfect time to make sure your restaurant is ready. 

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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,

Here's a REALLY Timely Repeat About Norovirus: What Impact Does It Have on Your Restaurant?

In the news right now there are widespread reports of Norovirus outbreaks in the United States. While these outbreaks may be affecting schools and healthcare facilities, we all know the impact a Norovirus outbreak can have on a restaurant. Though we first published this post in mid-December, we thought it was especially important to share it again with you now - it's a really good time to take a closer look at your food safety program to make sure you have measures in place to reduce the risk of norovirus. And so... 

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 looking at foodborne outbreaks over the last few years, foodservice establishments were the main source of these outbreaks, which are often related to an infected employee practicing poor personal hygiene and subsequently handling food. So what can you do to help ensure your restaurant doesn’t fall victim to a norovirus outbreak?

A strong food safety program that takes norovirus into consideration is critical. In the recent bulletin, “The Importance of Norovirus: Why You Should Have a Good Food Safety Program,” I along with Dr. Lee-Ann Jaykus and Dr. Elizabeth Bradshaw, both from North Carolina State University, take a closer look at norovirus and the preventive measures, including hand hygiene and surface sanitization, a restaurant can take to help reduce the spread of this foodborne illness.

Download Bulletin - The Importance of Norovirus: Why You Should Have a Good Food Safety Program

Find additional Norovirus information and downloads to help build a strong food safety program.

What Foodservice Workers Need to Know About the FDA Final Rule on Consumer Antibacterial Soaps


Earlier this month, the FDA issued its Final Rule on antibacterial soap products marketed to consumers or made available for use in public settings. This ruling excludes antibacterial soaps used in foodservice settings, as well as hand sanitizers. In addition, while this rule only applies to a subset of active ingredients and products used outside of healthcare and food handling industries, there might be some confusion as to the regulation’s impact on the foodservice industry. 

The Important Role of Hand Hygiene Plays in Foodservice
Handwashing with soap and water is the first and most important step any restaurant worker can take to ensure the safety of food and reduce the risk of getting sick or making others sick. 

Whether it takes place on the farm where the food is being grown, or in the kitchen (at home or in a restaurant), hand hygiene is vital to preventing our food from becoming contaminated. Also, when people think about hand hygiene in the foodservice industry, they typically think about handwashing with soap and water. 

Antibacterial Soaps and the Foodservice Industry
While the FDA does not specify what type of soap – bland or antibacterial – for foodservice industry workers to use, antibacterial soaps are common.  

Antibacterial soaps are often used because they contain ingredients designed to kill germs on the skin, adding an extra level of protection from microbial contamination. In fact, a 2011 study, published in the Journal of Food Protection, compared bland and antibacterial soaps and found that antibacterial soaps did provide a statistically significant greater reduction in bacteria.

In addition, handwashing technique plays a critical role in reducing the transient, or illness-causing germs, on hands. Yet, oftentimes, handwashing technique is incorrect, and using an antibacterial soap helps kill germs missed by an ineffective washer. 

All in all, hand hygiene and using the right hand hygiene products play a critical role in food safety.