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Beef Up Your Food Safety IQ for Food Safety Month

By Sally Murdoch

clean food preparation area in restaurant

More than one million restaurants in the U.S. serve 130 million meals a year, according to the National Restaurant Association, and food safety is, and should be, the top priority. The approximately 14 1/2 million workers in restaurants make up 10% of the overall workforce in the U.S. On average, Americans eat out between 4-5 times per week, translating to 18.2 meals in an average month that are eaten outside the home. Given that we’re spending an average of $232 of our hard earned dollars at restaurants, wouldn’t it be reassuring to know that all these meals are prepared as carefully and without disease, as if they were prepared in your own home?

The reality is that when we go to restaurants, we trust that everyone serving food has done at least one thing—washed their hands with soap and water in an attempt to keep diners free from viruses. If they forget, our hope as diners is that they are reminded by signage and labels, to hit the message home.

With Food Safety Month winding to a close in September, the focus for the restaurant industry this year is upon stopping viruses before they spread. This can be achieved most effectively by simply washing hands with soap, such as the Gojo brand cherry soap with dispenser.

How to Stop the Spread of Virus in Food Prep and Service

The most common foodborne viruses are Norovirus and Hepatitis A. Viruses need a living host to grow; they don’t grow in food, but can be transferred through food and still remain infectious in food.

Norovirus is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness, causing approximately 90% of nonbacterial outbreaks of gastroenteritis around the world, and possibly responsible for 50% of all foodborne outbreaks of gastroenteritis in the U.S. The majority of norovirus cases can be traced back to one infected person handling food.

A few additional things to note:

  • Viruses such as norovirus are not destroyed by cooking.
  • People can get viruses from food, water, or any contaminated surface.
  • Foodborne illnesses from viruses typically occur through fecal-oral routes.

Making Sure Food Workers Wash Their Hands

Hand washing with soap and water is the most effective method for reducing the transmission of norovirus. Alcohol hand sanitizers can be used along with soap, but are less effective than hand-washing. A 2006 study reported by the International Journal of Food Microbiology found that a virus can remain on surfaces used for food preparation seven days after contamination.

Short of standing there to make sure every employee washes his or her hands, a restaurant owner or manager needs to be vigilant about posting signs in a number of areas to remind staff to wash up responsibly. Graphic Products has dozens of premade signs reminding users to wash hands, from the obvious calls-to-action to notice - wash hands before leaving this room signthe subtle suggestion signs, all with the same message to wash hands before leaving the bathroom. Want to customize your sign or label with messaging such as “Wash hands before starting your shift?” You can customize your messaging with a premade blank sign, also available in the store.

Food Safety for Food Prep and Manufacturers

For an in-depth look at industrial food safety that you can keep for handy reference, check out our free guide on safety for food processing workers.

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