Sick restaurant employees were responsible for about 40% of food poisoning outbreaks with known causes between 2017 and 2019, federal health officials announced on Tuesday.
Of the 800 outbreaks reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 875 restaurants during the span, norovirus and salmonella were the most common causes, officials said.
While 85% of restaurants claimed to have policies restricting sick staff from working, only 16% of the policies detailed what symptoms should require workers to call out sick, including vomiting, diarrhea and sore throat with fever.
CDC investigators have called for better enforcement of “comprehensive food safety policies,” which emphasize basic measures like hand-washing in addition to keeping workers who are feeling under the weather at home.
Additionally, only 44% of restaurant managers said they provide paid sick leave to their employees, forcing many employees to decide between their paycheck and their health.
There’s also pressure in restaurant culture to not leave your coworkers short-staffed, Mitzi Baum, the chief executive of nonprofit advocacy group STOP Foodborne Illness, told the Associated Press.
“If there’s a positive food safety culture, you’re not penalized for illness,” she said.
She said while it’s hard to tell when a restaurant employee is sick, diners can look for symptoms like sniffing and sneezing.
About 48 million people are sickened each year by foodborne illness in the US, including 128,000 who are hospitalized and 3,000 who die, according to the CDC.
With Post wires