While many diseases are transmitted from person to person, there are some illnesses that can use food as a vehicle. These are called foodborne illnesses. Because the CDC estimates that nearly 48 million Americans are sickened by foodborne illnesses each year, it’s important to take them seriously and know what to do when you or an employee is ill. The FDA has identified certain illnesses, along with their common symptoms, that contribute to many of these foodborne illnesses. If you experience any reportable symptoms or are diagnosed with a reportable disease, you must tell your manager.
What are reportable symptoms and diseases?
There are certain symptoms that should be reported to your manager because they are often related to foodborne illness. These are called reportable symptoms. Because foodborne illness outbreaks pose a major public health concern, it’s critical to report symptoms when you start noticing them.
In addition, if you are diagnosed with typhoid fever, non-typhoidal Salmonella, E. coli, Shigella, Norovirus, or Hepatitis A, you should tell your manager. These foodborne illnesses can spread quickly and cause a major outbreak.
What symptoms must a food handler report?
Here are some common symptoms to report to a manager:
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes or skin)
- Sore throat with fever
- Infected wound on hand or wrist
Although the FDA Food Code doesn’t require it, you should also report any symptoms or diagnosis of COVID-19. Symptoms could include:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of taste of smell
Your local government may have different requirements for reporting these symptoms or a COVID-19 diagnosis. Follow their guidelines to ensure that you and your customers stay safe.
How should a manager respond to employee illness?
Sometimes an employee may still be able to work while experiencing certain symptoms; other times they must be sent home. If a food worker has a sore throat with a fever, they can still work but must do restricted tasks, like cleaning bathrooms or doing office jobs. If they serve a highly susceptible population, however, they must stay home.
If a food worker has an infected wound on their hand or wrist, they must cover it with a bandage and a single-use glove or finger cot. If they are unable to do that, then they should perform restricted tasks.
If a food worker vomits or has diarrhea or jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes), they must go home immediately.
In addition, you will need to report certain diseases to your local regulatory authority, such as a health department. If you have a food worker who has been diagnosed with Salmonella (typhoidal or non-typhoidal), Norovirus, Hepatitis A, Shigella, or E. coli, send the food worker home and report it immediately to the regulatory authority. Follow their instructions on when to allow the food worker to resume duties.
Reporting symptoms and keeping ill employees home is crucial to food safety. Follow the FDA and your local regulatory authority guidelines. For more training tips and resources or to take our online courses, visit StateFoodSafety.com.