Prevent foodborne outbreaks at your establishment: Keep ill employees at home

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Partnership and Workforce Development – Food Safety Partnership Update

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June 7, 2021

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is reminding food establishments that ill employees must not work. As you update your practices based on the reduced COVID-19 requirements, please ensure you continue to follow the requirements in the Minnesota Food Code.

Recent increases in foodborne outbreak activity

MDH has seen a significant increase in norovirus outbreak activity during the last few weeks. Norovirus is a very contagious foodborne virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. The increase comes after a time of reduced outbreak activity in food establishments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As COVID restrictions are lifting, please be aware that other communicable diseases such as norovirus are still a problem in Minnesota, and you can take measures to prevent spread among your staff and patrons.

Avoid foodborne illness like norovirus in your establishment

Drawing of person sitting on toilet and holding onto a garbage can.

To avoid the spread of foodborne illness among food establishment employees and prevent outbreaks among your customers, take these precautions:

  • Employees must not work if they are ill with vomiting or diarrhea, and they must stay home from work for at least 24 hours after it stops.
  • Follow Handwashing for Employees procedures, and wash hands often!
  • Use gloves, tongs, deli tissue, etc. to handle or prepare ready-to-eat foods like e.g., salads, sandwiches, and fruit. Do not handle ready-to-eat foods with bare hands.

How norovirus is spread

Norovirus is spread when tiny particles of feces (poop) or vomit from an infected person get in your mouth. Anyone can get infected and sick with norovirus. This can happen if you:

  • Eat food or drink liquids that became contaminated with norovirus because they were prepared or touched by a person ill with norovirus,
  • Touch surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then put your fingers in your mouth, or
  • Have direct contact with someone who is infected with norovirus, such as by caring for them or sharing food or utensils with them.

Understand your employee illness, exclusions, and reporting responsibilities

The person in charge at your establishment is responsible to take action in the following scenarios.

  • If a customer contacts you to complain of illness, this must be reported to your local health inspector or MDH MDH Foodborne Illness Hotline
  • All ill employees must be excluded from a food establishment while they have:
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
  • Employees with diarrhea or vomiting cannot return to work for at least 24 hours after symptoms end.
  • Employees must report to the person in charge of the business if they have any of the following symptoms:
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
    • Jaundice (yellowing of skin or whites of eyes)
    • Sore throat with fever
    • Open, infected wound.
  • Record all employee reports of diarrhea and vomiting including onset date in an Employee Illness Log.
  • Employees must also report to the person in charge if they have been diagnosed with any of the following infections:
    • Norovirus
    • Salmonella
    • Shigella
    • Hepatitis A virus
    • Shiga toxin-producing coli
    • Infection with another enteric bacteria, viral or parasitic pathogen
  • The person in charge must notify the local health inspector or the MDH Foodborne Illness Hotline if an employee has been diagnosed with any of the above illnesses.


Causes and Symptoms of Norovirus Infection

Reporting Suspected Foodborne and Waterborne Illness

"Do you have vomiting and /or diarrhea?" (Postcard) (PDF)

Employee Illness Decision Guide Poster (PDF)

Employee Personal Hygiene (PDF)

Handwashing for Employees (PDF)

Preventing Contamination from Hands (PDF)

Employee Illness Log (PDF)