Published Article

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Report on Norovirus

Jun 23, 2014

EcoSure Food Safety Monitor

By Miriam Eisenberg

In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new Vital Signs report, "Preventing Norovirus Outbreaks." The report focuses heavily on food handlers and food service operations. While norovirus gets attention as the "cruise ship virus," cruise ship incidents account for only about 1% of all reported norovirus outbreaks. Norovirus is very contagious and outbreaks can occur anywhere people gather or food is served. 

Key points in the Vital Signs report include: 

  • Most reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food occurred in food service settings, such as restaurants (64%) and catering or banquet facilities (17%).
  • Infected food workers caused about 70% of the reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food where factors contributing to contamination were identified.
  • Over half of those outbreaks involved food workers using bare hands to touch ready-to-eat foods, such as washed raw fruits and vegetables for salads or sandwiches and pre-cooked items, like deli meats and baked goods.
  • Of the reported outbreaks in which a specific food item was implicated, more than 90% were contaminated during final preparation. For example, when making a sandwich with raw vegetables and deli meat.

The food service industry can help prevent norovirus by:

  • Making sure food service workers practice proper hand washing and avoid touching ready-to-eat foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, with their bare hands.
  • Certifying kitchen managers and training food service workers in food safety practices.
  • Establishing and enforcing policies that require sick food service workers to stay home.
  • Considering paid sick leave and on-call staffing to support policy compliance.

To read the entire CDC report: Preventing Norovirus Outbreaks, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/norovirus/index.html

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