As winter is upon us, norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, once again comes into focus. Its effects can be devastating not only for your customers’ health but also for your business. This extremely contagious virus infects from between 600,000 to a million people in the UK each year. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. Once the virus is present, it is very easy to pass on to others and is particularly dangerous for the young, elderly and infirm.
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), norovirus is a major cause of acute gastroenteritis throughout Europe. The virus is transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food or water, via person-to-person contact or contact with infected surfaces.
Food hygiene and safety is therefore vital in restaurants, hotels, catering outlets and foodservice companies, to protect reputation and safeguard consumers against illness.
The danger to your business
Norovirus can have an adverse impact on any business – in fact, some of Europe’s leading restaurants have been affected in recent years. For instance, the two-Michelin starred Noma restaurant in Copenhagen suffered an outbreak in 2013, with over 60 customers becoming ill after dining there!
In the UK, high profile cases of norovirus have also been widely reported. For instance, an Exeter restaurant, the Toby Pub & Carvery faced a lawsuit from nearly 200 customers following a norovirus outbreak in 2015. The restaurant managers failed to close the premises immediately after the first notification of a problem, and subsequently more diners were struck down with the virus.
Cutting the risk - improving hygiene standards
Strict hygiene standards must be followed to minimise the spread of norovirus.
The best defence against viruses is by washing hands thoroughly, particularly after using the toilet. Staff must wear disposable gloves and a mask to deal with vomit and other fluids correctly and disinfect the area afterwards.
Employees working in foodservice or catering must inform their managers if they have suffered from food poisoning symptoms as soon as possible. They MUST be excluded from work and not return until they have been free from symptoms for 48 hours. This is particularly important given the highly contagious nature of this virus.