We recently covered the infectious Norovirus in our previous blog “Norovirus named ‘Winter Vomiting Bug’ ” in late July, only to have it reappear as a topic after Queensland Health is reporting an outbreak of Norovirus in South East Queensland. As per the Queensland Health website:
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that can cause gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) with diarrhoea, stomach pain and vomiting. Common names used for gastroenteritis due to Norovirus are ‘gastric flu’ or ‘stomach flu’, ‘winter vomiting’ and ‘viral gastro’.
Noroviruses are found in the faeces or vomit of infected people. People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:
- Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
- Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with Norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth
- Small airborne particles from projectile vomiting
- Having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).
I feel this is an opportune time to approach this topic and food handlers responsibilities within the Food Industry.
It is a legal requirement in Australia that ANY Food Handler that is suffering from ANY type of communicable diseases (including Gastroenteritis, food poisoning, Hepatitis etc.) is excluded from working with food until they have received medical clearance certificate from a doctor, stating that that the person is safe to return to working with food. Each illness or condition that excludes an employee from working with food, have different clearance periods and it is vital that a doctor clears you to return to work. The clearance MUST be sighted by a Manager or Supervisor and kept on file.
The list of the illnesses and conditions that excludes an employee from working with food also includes:
- Typhoid and Paratyphoid,
- Cholera, Shingellosis,
- Staphylococcal disease,
- Streptococcal disease,
- Campylobacter enteritis,
- Rotaviral enteritis,
- Hepatitis A and E,
- Taenia sollum (pork tape worm),
- Gastroenteritis with acute diarrhoea and vomiting,
- Norwalk, or Norwalk-type viruses
- Boils, abscesses, lesions of hands, face or nose.
PLEASE NOTE: This clearance certificate is different to the medical certificate required by HR to cover you for sick leave.
PREVENTION IS THE KEY!
Regular hand washing is a must at all times whenever your hands may have become contaminated!
If you need to wash your hands and are in the middle of serving a customer, excuse yourself and tell the customer that you just need to wash your hands (don’t just disappear).
For food service businesses, consider organising pump packs of food safe hand sanitisers to be available at the Point of Sale areas, or on counters where customers can access to help prevent contamination
It is important to consider your customers and not just your team members.
Hand washing and good hygienic practices are essential. Hands should be washed with dispensable hand soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds and then dried thoroughly using disposable towels BEFORE handling food.
They must also be washed after going to the toilet, after handling rubbish, after cleaning, after having a break etc.
Food handling gloves should be used at ALL times and changed regularly between tasks.
If any of your employees are suffering any symptoms likely to be caused by a gastro bug, please consider your fellow team members and your customers by letting your Manager or Supervisor know immediately. This includes if your symptoms occur after you have left for the day.