September is National Food Safety Month. Many businesses in the food industry offer awareness regarding the importance of food safety and the risks of food borne illnesses. Over the past 22 years, the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe program has produced educational material from its training programs to highlight the importance of embracing and promoting a culture of food safety year round. This year’s theme “Notorious Virus” explores ways food service businesses can protect themselves and their guests from a few of the leading causes of food borne illness – Norovirus and Hepatitis A!
Week 2: The Norovirus
According to WebMD, Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause inflammation of the stomach and large intestine lining (gastroenteritis) and are the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S. Sometimes called food poisoning, the viruses can be transmitted through food that’s been contaminated though it should be noted that Noroviruses aren’t always the result of food contamination.
Infection occurs when a person eats food or drink liquids that have been contaminated; consume raw or undercooked oysters and raw fruits and vegetables or touching objects or surfaces that have been infected with the virus and then touch nose, mouth, or eyes.
Highly contagious, Noroviruses can survive temperature extremes in water and on surfaces. Once infected, the virus can quickly pass from person to person through shared food or utensils, by shaking hands or through other close contact. People who have a weakened immune system are particularly susceptible to catching noroviruses.
Like other viruses unresponsive to antibiotics designed to kill bacteria, Noroviruses cannot be treated with the use of an antiviral drug. Generally speaking, in healthy people, the Norovirus clears on its own in a couple of days.
Prevention of The Norovirus
According to the CDC, Food workers should follow some simple tips to prevent norovirus from spreading:
- Avoid preparing food for others while you are sick and for at least 48 hours after symptoms stop
- Wash your hands carefully and often with soap and water
- Rinse fruits and vegetables and cook shellfish thoroughly
- Clean and sanitize kitchen utensils, counters, and surfaces routinely
- Wash table linens, napkins, and other laundry thoroughly
For more information, see Preventing Norovirus Infection.