Food Poisoning Outbreaks Linked to Sick Restaurant Workers

1 min read

May 31, 2023 -- Sick food workers accounted for 40% of food poisoning outbreaks at restaurants from 2017 to 2019, a new report from the CDC says.

The report says there were about 800 outbreaks at 875 restaurants reported by 25 state and local authorities.

The most common causes were norovirus and salmonella.

“The findings in this report can help public health authorities and the retail food establishment industry develop data-driven, effective approaches to preventing foodborne illness outbreaks,” the CDC report says.

Investigators used better “comprehensive food safety policies” including hand washing and keeping sick employees at home.

“Although 85% of restaurants said they had policies restricting staff from working while sick, only about 16% of the policies were detailed enough to require workers to notify managers and to stay home if they had any of the five key symptoms — including vomiting, diarrhea, and sore throat with fever,” the Associated Press reported.

Most restaurant managers don’t provide paid sick leave, the CDC said, which has the effect of encouraging sick workers to show up anyway.

“If there’s a positive food safety culture, you’re not penalized for illness,” Mitzi Baum, the chief executive of STOP Foodborne Illness, a nonprofit advocacy group, told the AP.

Each year some 48 million people in this country are made sick by foodborne illness, the CDC says. That includes 128,000 who are hospitalized and 3,000 who died.