Managerial practices regarding workers working while ill.

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Journal of food protection, ISSN: 1944-9097, Vol: 78, Issue: 1, Page: 187-95

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Norton, D. M.; Brown, L. G.; Frick, R.; Carpenter, L. R.; Green, A. L.; Tobin-D'Angelo, M.; Reimann, D. W.; Blade, H.; Nicholas, D. C.; Egan, J. S.; Everstine, K. Show More Hide
International Association for Food Protection
Immunology and Microbiology; Agricultural and Biological Sciences
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Surveillance data indicate that handling of food by an ill worker is a cause of almost half of all restaurant-related outbreaks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code contains recommendations for food service establishments, including restaurants, aimed at reducing the frequency with which food workers work while ill. However, few data exist on the extent to which restaurants have implemented FDA recommendations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) conducted a study on the topic of ill food workers in restaurants. We interviewed restaurant managers (n = 426) in nine EHS-Net sites. We found that many restaurant policies concerning ill food workers do not follow FDA recommendations. For example, one-third of the restaurants' policies did not specifically address the circumstances under which ill food workers should be excluded from work (i.e., not be allowed to work). We also found that, in many restaurants, managers are not actively involved in decisions about whether ill food workers should work. Additionally, almost 70% of managers said they had worked while ill; 10% said they had worked while having nausea or "stomach flu," possible symptoms of foodborne illness. When asked why they had worked when ill, a third of the managers said they felt obligated to work or their strong work ethic compelled them to work. Other reasons cited were that the restaurant was understaffed or no one was available to replace them (26%), they felt that their symptoms were mild or not contagious (19%), they had special managerial responsibilities that no one else could fulfill (11%), there was non-food handling work they could do (7%), and they would not get paid if they did not work or the restaurant had no sick leave policy (5%). Data from this study can inform future research and help policy makers target interventions designed to reduce the frequency with which food workers work while ill.