With UK the Health Security Agency (UKHSA) surveillance data showing that laboratory reports of norovirus are 77% higher than the 5-season average for the same period prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we felt it pertinent to reissue the Food Alert norovirus guidance, especially as we go into the busy Easter period.
Norovirus is very infectious but there are things you can do to stop the spread. Norovirus has frequently been associated with outbreaks of illness linked to raw or lightly cooked shellfish, principally from oysters, as well as fresh produce, particularly soft fruit. The introduction of norovirus into food by infected food handlers is also thought to be a significant contributor to human infection and certain ‘practices and behaviours’ are known to present a norovirus transmission risk (FSA, 2017).
- Inadequate hand washing and drying and not washing hands prior to using gloves
- Food handlers cleaning the area where an episode of vomiting occurred instead of trained cleaning personnel
- Not washing uniform or not washing uniform correctly
- Returning to work too early after illness.
Tips to prevent norovirus:
- Frequent handwashing is key to prevent spread of infection and it is important to remember that hand gels do not kill norovirus so must not be used in place of handwashing with warm soapy water.
- Norovirus is extremely infections and only a few viral particles are required on food or hands to make a person sick. As a food handler, if you get the virus, you should not return to work until 48 hours after symptoms stop without the use of medication and you should inform your manager if members of your household are ill with norovirus.
- Use utensils or wear gloves when preparing and handling ready-to-eat foods such as sandwiches and salads. But remember, the use of utensils and gloves does not replace the need for frequent and proper handwashing.
- Disinfect food contact surfaces and hand contact surfaces, such as handles, taps and switches etc. frequently
- Cook shellfish thoroughly and if you are serving raw oysters ensure that you have excellent hygiene controls in place
- Thoroughly wash fruits, vegetables and salad items well by agitating and rinsing in fresh water to dislodge soil and micro-organisms and always check frozen berries packaging for instructions about whether the food is ready-to-eat and follow any instructions.
- Have procedures to follow when responding to incidents of vomiting and diarrhoea. These procedures should address actions to be taken that minimise the spread of contamination and the exposure of employees, consumers and food to these potentially hazardous bodily fluids. Consider purchasing a spill kit, disposable overalls, and equipment to clean up with and use a sanitiser that is tested to kill norovirus or a 0.1% hypochlorite (bleach) based solution.
- Food handlers must not be involved in cleaning up after incidents of vomiting on site.
- Be prepared – have an outbreak control plan and identify resources required to manage an outbreak for example external cleaning companies who will be able to provide cleaning staff at short notice, an adequate stock of cleaning chemicals and PPE
Food Alerts Norovirus Guide provides detailed information on how to prevent and control the spread of norovirus so please do contact us for a copy. For further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us on our Advice Line via email or telephone: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0844 445 7412.
Reference – FSA (2017) Food Handlers and Norovirus transmission (FS101143) June 2017. https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/executive_summary_3.pdf