Tag Archives: norovirus

Nicole Lang, igus
Retail Food Safety Forum

Robots Serve Up Safety in Restaurants

By Nicole Lang
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Nicole Lang, igus

Perhaps the top takeaway from the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is that people the world over realize how easily viruses can spread. Even with social distancing, masks and zealous, frequent handwashing, everyone has learned contagions can cycle through the atmosphere and put a person at risk of serious, and sometimes deadly, health complications. In reality, there are no safe spaces when proper protocols are not followed.

The primary culprit in transmission of norovirus, according to the CDC, is contaminated food. “The virus can easily contaminate food because it is very tiny and spreads easily,” the CDC says in a fact sheet for food workers posted on its website. “It only takes a very small amount of virus to make someone sick.”

The CDC numbers are alarming. The agency reports about 20 million people get sick from norovirus each year, most from close contact with infected people or by eating contaminated food. Norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States, and infected food workers cause about 70% of reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food.

The solution to reducing the transmission of unhealthy particles could be starting to take shape through automation. While robots have been used for the past few years in food manufacturing and processing, new solutions take food handling to a new level. Robots are no longer in the back of the house in the food industry, isolated in packaging and manufacturing plants. They are now front and center. The next time you see a salad prepared for you at a favorite haunt, you may be watching a robot.

“The global pandemic has altered the way that we eat,” said Justin Rooney, of Dexai Robotics, a company that developed a food service robotic device. Reducing human contact with food via hands-free ordering and autonomous food serving capabilities has the potential to reduce the spread of pathogens and viruses, and could help keep food fresh for a longer period of time.

Painful Pandemic

Increased use of automation in the foodservice industry might be one of the salvations of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an industry searching for good news, that might be the silver lining in an otherwise gloomful crisis.

Job losses in the restaurant industry have been brutal. By the end of November, nearly 110,000 restaurants in the United States had closed. A report by the National Restaurant Association said restaurants lost three times more jobs than any other industry since the beginning of the pandemic. In December, reports said nearly 17% of U.S. restaurants had closed. Some restaurants clung to life by offering outdoor dining, but as winter set in, that option evaporated. Some governors even demanded restaurant closures as the pandemic escalated in late fall.

Restaurants have faced a chronic labor shortage for years. Despite layoffs during the pandemic, many former foodservice employees are electing to leave the industry.

Teenagers, for instance, and some older workers are staying away for health and safety reasons. Some former workers are also finding out that they can make more money on unemployment benefits than by returning to work. Restaurant chains have hiked wages, but filling positions still remains a challenge.

Automated Solutions

Restaurants began dancing with the idea of robots nearly 50 years ago. The trend started slowly, with customers ordering food directly through kiosks. As of 2011, McDonald’s installed nearly 7,000 touchscreen kiosks to handle cashiering responsibilities at restaurants throughout Europe.

As technology has advanced, so has the presence of robots in restaurants. In 2019 Seattle-based Picnic unveiled a robot that can prepare 300 pizzas in an hour. In January, Nala Robotics announced it would open the world’s first “intelligent” restaurant. The robotic kitchen can create dishes from any cuisine in the world. The kitchen, which is expected to open in April in Naperville, Illinois, will have the capability to create an endless variety of cuisine without potential contamination from human contact.

Dexai designed a new robotic unit that allows for hands-free ordering that can be placed through any device with an Internet connection. The robot also includes a new subsystem for utensils, which are stored in a food bin to keep them temperature controlled. This ensures that robot is compliant with ServSafe regulations. The company is working on improving robot system’s reliability, robustness, safety and user friendliness. The robot has two areas to hold tools, a kitchen display system, bowl passing arm, an enclosure for electronics and two refrigeration units. It has the unique ability to swap utensils to comply with food service standards and prevent contamination as a result of allergens, for example.

Why Automation

Many industries have been impacted by advancements in automation, and the foodservice industry is no different. While initially expensive, the benefits over time can provide to be worth the investment.

One of the most significant advantages, particularly important in the post-COVID era, is better quality control. Automated units can detect issues much earlier in the supply chain, and address those issues.

Automation can also help improve worker safety by executing some of the more repetitive and dangerous tasks. Robots can also boost efficiency (i.e., a robot used for making pizza that can press out dough five times faster than humans and place them into ovens) and eliminate the risk of injury. Robots are also being used to make coffee, manage orders and billing, and prepare the food. Robots can also collect data that will help foodservice owners regarding output, quantity, speed and other factors.

“Alfred’s actions are powered by artificial intelligence,” according to Rooney. “Each time Alfred performs an action, the associated data gets fed into a machine learning model. Consequently, each individual Alfred learns from the accumulated success and failures of every other Alfred that has existed.” Dexai plans to teach the robot to operate other commonly found pieces of kitchen equipment such as grills, fryers, espresso machines, ice cream cabinets and smoothie makers.

Unrelenting Trend

Automated solutions might have come along too late to save many restaurants, but the path forward is clear. While they are not yet everywhere, robots are now in play at significant number of restaurants, and there is no turning back. Any way you slice it, robots in restaurants, clearly, is an idea whose time has come.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Food Fraud With Nasty Results

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis

Global food supply chains are complex and therefore quite vulnerable to errors or fraudulent activity. A company in Chile repackaged and falsely labeled cheap raspberries from China, reselling them as top-level organic Chilean raspberries in Canada. These raspberries were linked to a norovirus outbreak in Canada, sickening hundreds of people. A whistleblower complaint helped to uncover this fraudulent scheme that posed a significant risk to human health.

Raspberry, Decernis
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne.

Resource

  1. Sherwood, D. (October 6, 2020). “How a Chilean raspberry scam made its way into Canada leading to a norovirus outbreak”. Reuters.
Seafood

Q3 Hazard Beat: Seafood

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Seafood

The following infographic is a snapshot of the hazard trends in seafood from Q3 2019. The information has been pulled from the HorizonScan quarterly report, which summarizes recent global adulteration trends using data gathered from more than 120 reliable sources worldwide. Over the past and next few weeks, Food Safety Tech is providing readers with hazard trends from various food categories included in this report.

hazards, seafood, HorizonScan
2019 Data from HorizonScan by FeraScience, Ltd.

View last week’s hazards in herbs and spices.

Manik Suri, CEO and co-founder, CoInspect
Retail Food Safety Forum

Rodent Poop, the Olympics and Food Safety Inspections that Work

By Manik Suri
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Manik Suri, CEO and co-founder, CoInspect

Another day, another potentially brand damaging story—just ask Little Caesars. On February 7, the health department closed down an Indianapolis-based location because customers found some rodent feces on their pizza—it was clearly a food safety violation, and pretty disgusting. Meanwhile on the other side of the planet, athletes prepared their entire lives to compete in the Olympics. More than 100 people contracted Norovirus around the Olympic sites in Pyeongchang, where the athletes were in danger of getting a violent, contagious stomach illness that would derail their dreams and prohibit them from competing.

We live in a world that eats out, and if we don’t develop new techniques to protect customers in restaurants and food service settings, more people are going to get sick (or worse) from foodborne illnesses. The current food safety process is broken, and needs to be fixed in restaurants nationwide and globally.

At Google, Larry Page has spent two decades managing the speed of a search result for the company’s core service. From 1997 forward, Page has obsessed about the right results as fast as possible. When has Google ever been slow? People use the search engine daily because it always works.

For restaurants to grow and thrive, they need habit formation from fickle consumers. Habits are formed when restaurants deliver on their value proposition slice after slice, burger after burger, and salad after salad. So what is your organization doing to make sure that every meal is extraordinary— not only delicious, but also safe? What are you doing to prevent Norovirus and other foodborne illnesses?

Well, you’re probably not studying the data to create better processes. A 2017 survey of the top 500 restaurant chains found that 85% use paper logs or spreadsheets as their core technology for safety, quality and standards management. Paper logs, line check clipboards or homemade Excel sheets on a laptop are inefficient and ineffective systems to manage something as critical as food safety.

Many restaurants have upgraded their mobile ordering software and relaunched their menus on LED screens, but still make employees use clipboards to conduct food safety line checks and QA audits. This devalues the importance of their food safety operating protocols. Restaurant teams are comprised mostly of millennials and Generation Z— the mobile generations. They expect to be trained, do work and solve problems with their phones. But when their employers train with paper manuals and complete work with paper forms, it’s a huge disconnect for them.

Moreover, how did people at Little Caesars HQ in Detroit have insight into that recent incident in their Indianapolis store? What operating data do they have to examine? What line checks happened in store on the day in question? When was their last third-party food safety audit? What corrective actions were taken? That information would be hard for them to know, if, like the vast majority of restaurant chains, they were not collecting and analyzing data with modern tools.

Upgrading your operating technology so that your people have digital tools is not expensive. Software is much more affordable today because of the software-as-a-service revolution and the extraordinary computing power and proliferation of mobile devices. An emerging ecosystem of safety and software companies is ready to take your facilities into the 21st century. But the C-Suite has to decide it wants to empower its employees to do their best work and commit to having real-time data that is actionable and accurate.

Having mobile ordering software and LED screens for menus is helpful and valuable. But food safety is the most important component of every restaurant (and other food service companies). It is imperative that the food service industry embraces digital solutions to elevate their food safety standards. Without proper food safety standards, any organization could face a crisis like Little Caesars and the Olympics recently experienced. All it takes is one tainted meal to harm your guests—and your brand.

Bionano Laboratory

Biosensor Detects Norovirus on the Spot, in One Hour

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Bionano Laboratory

Norovirus has returned to the headlines following the latest outbreak at the PyeongChang Olympics in South Korea. Researchers at Bionano Laboratory in Guelph, Canada are trying to prevent such outbreaks with the development of a nanotechnology-based biosensor that can identify foodborne viruses at the point of care.

“Our nanotech biosensor boasts of a microfluidic platform duly integrated with graphene-gold nano-composite aptasensor that has shown to help with one-step norovirus detection. We have been able to detection the norovirus with in an hour with superior sensitivity with our state-of-the art device.” – Suresh Neethirajan, Bionano Lab

Designed for use in the field, the paper-based microfluidic device has a screen-printed carbon electrode that enables electrochemical virus detection within an hour. Its chip is packed with silica microbeads zones to filter and enrich a Norovirus-infected sample. The researchers also state that the biosensor is designed to be simple and cost effective. They have published two papers demonstrating the effectiveness of the device, one in Microchimica Acta (Apramer-based fluorometric determination of norovirus using paper-based microfluidic device) and the other in Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

Hank Lambert, Pure Bioscience

Tech Spotlight: How Chipotle Fights Norovirus

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Hank Lambert, Pure Bioscience

Watch another video: Antimicrobial Technology Mitigates Pathogen Risk Throughout the Supply ChainChipotle was plagued with several foodborne illness outbreaks in 2015. Norovirus was one of them. As part of the company’s commitment to addressing its food safety issues, it enlisted the help of technology from Pure Bioscience. In the following video, Hank Lambert, CEO of Pure Bioscience, explains how and where Chipotle is using the Pure Hard Surface technology in its establishments to mitigate the risk of norovirus.

Dave Shumaker, GoJo
Retail Food Safety Forum

Navigating the Complexities of Common Foodborne Illnesses

By Dave Shumaker
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Dave Shumaker, GoJo

Did you know there are more than 250 different types of foodborne illnesses? And while that number may seem daunting, especially when one in six Americans become ill from consuming contaminated foods or beverages each year, there are a few foodborne germs that are responsible for the majority of illness outbreaks, according to the CDC.1 What are these illnesses? What are their symptoms? What can you do to help reduce the risk of an outbreak happening at your restaurant?

The CDC estimates that approximately 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness each year, with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. And of these numbers, there are two common illnesses that stand out—norovirus and Salmonella. In fact, these two pathogens account for nearly 70% of all foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States.

Norovirus

Norovirus is responsible for 58% of domestically acquired foodborne illnesses and nearly half of all foodborne disease outbreaks due to known agents.2 Of these instances, most norovirus outbreaks occur in a food service setting, particularly restaurants.

Oftentimes, infected employees are the cause of these types of outbreaks. For example, individuals who are exhibiting symptoms come to work and contaminate food by touching either ready-to-eat foods or food-contact surfaces with their bare hands, which can lead to cross contamination.

Norovirus spreads easily and quickly, so people can contract it by not only by consuming contaminated foods or beverages, but also from having direct contact with individuals who are infected with the virus or touching surfaces or objects that have norovirus on them as well. In addition, norovirus outbreaks can also occur from foods that are contaminated at their source.2

In this video about Norovirus, I discuss the actions you can take, which includes practicing good hand hygiene, to reduce the risk of a norovirus outbreak negatively impacting your restaurant.

Salmonella

Each year in the United States, Salmonella is responsible for 1 million foodborne illnesses, 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths.3 In fact, the pathogen accounts for 11% of all foodborne illnesses in the United States.

People become infected with Salmonella by either eating contaminated food that has not been properly cooked or has been contaminated after preparation.4 Salmonella is often found in raw food products that come from animals such as eggs, meat, and unpasteurized milk and dairy products.

While Salmonella is fairly common, measures can be taken to help reduce the risk of infection, such as through proper cooking and holding temperatures. In addition, proper disinfection and sanitization of food contact surfaces (i.e., countertops and cutting boards) helps reduce the risk of cross contamination. Practicing good hand hygiene before eating, and before and after preparing food can also help prevent the spread of this bacterium.

No one ever thinks their restaurant will fall victim to a foodborne illness outbreak, but it can happen and these outbreaks are more common than you may think. It is critical for you to share information about foodborne pathogens and prevention with your staff. This type of education and training can have a significant benefit to your restaurant.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foodborne Germs and Illnesses. Accessed May 8, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Burden of Norovirus Illness and Outbreaks. Accessed May 8, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/php/illness-outbreaks.html
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Salmonella. Accessed May 17, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/
  4. Vermont Department of Health. Salmonella. Accessed May 23, 2016. Retrieved from http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/salmonella/Salmonella.aspx
Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel
Food Safety Attorney

The Criminal Offensive Begins

By Shawn K. Stevens
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Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel

FDA intends to pursue criminal investigations against any food company executives or quality assurance (QA) managers involved in cases in which a link is made between a positive sample collected by the agency from a food facility or product and a foodborne illness.

In fact, the agency and the U.S. Department of Justice just announced that they will be working together to aggressively enforce food safety laws, including the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. In prepared remarks at a food safety conference last week, Benjamin C. Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney, indicated that criminal prosecution of food companies is a priority moving forward. “When it comes to food safety, we have to rely on the companies who manufacture and distribute food to ensure that the food we buy is safe,” Mizer stated in his remarks. “That is why food safety is a priority for the Justice Department.  Our role in protecting consumer safety is at its apex when consumers can least protect themselves.”

In addition, the FDA is exercising nearly limitless authority to access company records during an inspection and investigation—and in many cases doing so without a warrant.

The Park Doctrine. In 1975, the Park Doctrine solidified FDA’s authority to criminally charge corporate executives and high-level managers. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction of the president of a major grocery chain who was found to be criminally liable for unsanitary conditions existing in a company distribution center, notwithstanding the argument that he had delegated the responsibility for maintaining the cleanliness of the site to his subordinates. The Supreme Court concluded that if a company ships adulterated food, the management of that company can be charged, even if they have no direct knowledge or intent. Under this standard, a food industry executive or QA manager can be sentenced to prison if he or she is aware of a circumstance or condition within his or her facility that could lead to a foodborne illness and fails to take action to correct it. If charged with this type of misdemeanor, the executive could be sentenced to up to a year in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count. On a case-by-case basis, FDA will consider the individual’s position within the company, his or her relationship to the violation, and whether in fact he or she was in a position (or had the authority) to correct the violation. The government is demonstrating that it intends to use criminal sanctions to create a deterrent and compel compliance.

Peanut Corporation of America (PCA): Salmonella outbreak (2008). PCA owner Stewart Parnell was sentenced to 28 years in prison for knowingly selling peanut products contaminated with Salmonella. His brother, a peanut broker, was sentenced to 20 years, and Parnell’s QA manager was sentenced to five years.

Quality Egg: Salmonella outbreak (2010). Quality Egg distributed products linked to a Salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 1,000 people. Company executives did not know that their products were sickening consumers but were nevertheless cited by FDA for failing to control Salmonella in the growing and processing  environment.  When the outbreak was over, FDA conducted a criminal investigation, and company executives were sentenced to three months in jail and slapped with significant fines for food safety violations.

Learn new and innovative approaches to Listeria detection & control at Food Safety Tech’s workshop | May 31–June 1, 2016 | St. Paul, MN | LEARN MOREJensen Farms: Listeria monocytogenes (2011). The company distributed cantaloupe contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and, over a two-month period, the tainted product sickened nearly 150 people and killed more than 30. Company owners were unaware of product contamination, but federal prosecutors brought criminal charges against the company regardless, arguing that Jensen Farms failed to take appropriate steps to reduce Listeria contamination in its facility. Company owners were sentenced to five years’ probation, six months’ home detention, 100 hours of community service, and assessed individual fines of $150,000.

ConAgra: Salmonella (2006­–2007). In 2014 FDA urged criminal charges be brought against ConAgra for distributing Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter, which sickened about 700 people, between 2006 and 2007. The company pled guilty to the charges and paid more than $11 million infines.

On May 2, 2014 FDA announced its intent to pursue “[c]riminal prosecution for falsifying records, lying to FDA, knowingly putting consumers at risk, or in other appropriate cases.”

Blue Bell: Listeria monocytogenes (2010–2015). In 2015, Blue Bell Creameries was linked to an outbreak in which FDA connected positive samples from those taken at retail and those taken at production facilities to seven case patients in the CDC database who carried the same strain of Listeria. Last year the agency urged the company to recall all of its products. What’s most concerning about the investigation is the fact that the first people who became sick fell ill more than five years ago (January 2010); two more illnesses were recorded in 2011, followed by one in 2012, and three in 2014. The final illness was reported January 2015.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed that FDA and the DOJ are making criminal sanctions “a priority” when companies “fail to live up to their obligations to protect the safety of the food that all of us eat.” The DOJ, working with FDA, has served federal grand jury subpoenas to Blue Bell, and is likely scanning food company records and executive emails to justify any criminal charges. If criminal charges are indeed brought against Blue Bell, FDA will likely argue that the company was periodically finding LM in its facilities over the past five years and failed to take sufficient action to correct the condition, which (as proven by the seven matching cases in PulseNet ),  resulted in human illness. Although this seems like an extreme approach, given the ubiquitous nature of LM, it is the approach the agency is aggressively pursuing.

Chipotle Mexican Grill: Norovirus (2015). For several months last year, Chipotle was unable to contain and manage numerous foodborne illness outbreaks. In a public filing the national restaurant chain confirmed that it received a federal grand jury subpoena from the DOJ in connection with a norovirus outbreak that occurred at a location in which more than 200 customers became ill.

According to reports, Chipotle executives became aware that numerous employees had reported being sick in August 2015, yet they waited a few days before informing the local health department of the illnesses and closing the restaurant. In turn, it appears that FDA and the DOJ initiated a criminal investigation and served the grand jury subpoenas in order to gain access to corporate emails and determine whether company executives waited “too long” after learning about the illnesses to take action. On January 28, officials from Chipotle confirmed that the restaurant chain was served with a subpoena that broadened the scope of the initial criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of California. This subpoena requires Chipotle to produce documents and information related to company-wide food safety matters dating back to January 1, 2013, and supersedes the subpoena served in December 2015 that was limited to a restaurant in Simi Valley, California. Although FDA is trying to uncover how the recent outbreaks occurred, the agency is also engaging in a broader “fishing expedition” to determine whether there is further justification to bring criminal sanctions as a result of any of the company’s broader food safety conduct.

Multiple Non-public Cases

The DOJ, in cooperation with FDA, is currently pursuing criminal investigations against many other companies connected to other reported illnesses. As these are ongoing investigations, the underlying facts cannot be disclosed publicly. However, the most important lesson to be learned is that food companies must be prepared to better control pathogens in their environment in order to protect themselves from criminal prosecutions. My subsequent column will discuss these strategies.

Maria Fontanazza, Editor-in-Chief, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
From the Editor’s Desk

Will It All Come Tumbling Down for Chipotle?

By Maria Fontanazza
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Maria Fontanazza, Editor-in-Chief, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC

As of late, the problems for Chipotle have been endless. 2015 was a year of several Salmonella, norovirus and E. coli outbreaks for the restaurant chain. With the first full week of the new year wrapped up, 2016 is off to perhaps an even rockier start, with news of the company being hit with both a class action lawsuit and a federal grand jury subpoena.

Company stockholder Susie Ong filed a civil complaint against Chipotle on January 8, stating that the company made false or misleading statements and failed to disclose that its “quality controls were inadequate to safeguard consumer and employee health.” Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the complaint calls out a norovirus outbreak that occurred in August in Simi Valley, California; a Salmonella outbreak in Minnesota that sickened 64 people; the closure of all company restaurants in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington in November following an E.coli outbreak; and the highly-publicized norovirus outbreak that sickened more than 140 students from Boston College in Brighton, Massachusetts last month.

Ong’s complaint also mentions the federal grand jury subpoena, which Chipotle made public two days prior (January 6) in an SEC filing. Served in December, the subpoena is part of a criminal investigation by FDA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California into the Simi Valley norovirus outbreak, which sickened about 100 patrons and employees (some reports state that more than 200 people fell ill). Ong’s lawsuit states that health inspectors found “dirty and inoperative equipment, equipment directly linked to the sewer, and other sanitary and health violations” at the Simi Valley restaurant.

With December’s norovirus outbreak in Brighton and the CDC’s announcement that it was further investigating five new cases of E. coli that were reported the month prior, restaurant sales were down 30% for the month, according to the SEC filing. Ong adds up all of these unfortunate events in the lawsuit, stating, “As a result of defendants’ wrongful acts and omissions, and the precipitous decline in the market value of the Company’s securities, Plaintiff and other Class members have suffered significant losses and damages.”

Chipotle has not yet publicly commented on the lawsuit.

Earlier in December, Chipotle called attention to improvements it was making to its food safety program by bringing in IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group to reevaluate its processes in an effort to prevent future outbreaks. Clearly that was not enough.

Food companies take heed. 2016 is off with a bang, and not in a good way. Last week industry was also buzzing about the DOJ’s investigation into Blue Bell Creameries over the deadly Listeria outbreak. FDA and the other federal powers-that-be are making it very clear that negligence will no longer be tolerated (Or should I say, alleged negligence, in this case). Compliance, accountability, and above all, ethical behavior are at the heart of the matter.

Will it all come tumbling down for Chipotle? It remains to be seen whether the company will be able to recover from these issues. And maybe an even bigger question is, who will be next?

Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B
Retail Food Safety Forum

Combating Norovirus Hazards in Retail Food Service – Part 3

By Dan Okenu, Ph.D.
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Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B

In the past two weeks, this blog has covered how Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness worldwide, some potential sources of outbreak, and the importance of proper handwashing, developing an employee health policy, building a comprehensive food safety program, and training of employees. One critical aspect of Norovirus management is proper attention paid to cleaning and disposal of body fluids.

Proper cleaning and disposal of body fluids

The food code requires that retail foodservice establishments have proper procedures in place for emergency body fluids clean-up. Body fluids incidents in the dining room, play areas or back of the house are arguably the single most important source of Norovirus cross contamination in the restaurant, if clean-up and disposal are not performed according to standard operating procedures. The components of an effective and compliant SOP for emergency body fluids clean-up may include the following:

  • Written step by step procedure to contain, isolate, clean and disinfect affected areas;
  • Ready and easily accessible emergency body fluid clean-up kit;
  • Use of PPEs like disposable aprons, gloves and protective eye glasses;
  • Norovirus approved disinfectant as a kill step before and after clean-up;
  • Containment of body fluids spill using absorbent yellow spill pads to reduce aerosols;
  • Affected area should be isolated to avoid accidental dispersal by guests;
  • Discard all affected open food and decontaminate all affected surfaces;
  • Stop all food prep until body fluids are contained, cleaned and affected area disinfected;
  • Perform clean-up with disposable towels and yellow spill pads for easy disposal;
  • Wear triple gloves to avoid contaminating the clean-up kit and storage area;
  • Dispose clean-up trash straight in outside dumpster without passing through kitchen; and
  • Employee must wash hands twice, first in the bathroom and then in the kitchen.

The pathogen kill-step is the most important step in the body fluid clean-up process. The preferred option is to use a disinfectant grade chemical instead of regular sanitizers.

Ecolab’s Insta-Use Multi-purpose Disinfectant Cleaner is effective against Norovirus (and other viruses), mold, mildew and bacteria. It cleans, deodorizes and disinfects in one labor saving step and packaged in an easy to use compact cartridge with less storage space requirement. Caution: Disinfectant is not approved for food contact surfaces and cannot be used as a replacement for regular sanitizers on food contact surfaces.

Proper training of team members and associates is required before use to encourage compliance.

In conclusion, Norovirus is still a major infectious pathogen associated with foodservice operations in spite of several regulatory control and technological advances to curtail its occurrence and prevalence. Until a viable vaccine or an effective drug becomes available against Norovirus, rigorous implementation of food safety procedures, behavioral changes and continuous training of both foodservice workers and customers will remain the industry’s best practices at prevention and control. Overall, it makes a lot of business sense to do all that it takes to protect your customers against the threat of Norovirus infection, and by so doing, equally protect your business brand and the entire public health.