A new study has revealed that what you thought was food poisoning might have been instead a gastric illness given to you by a restaurant worker’s lack of hand washing.
The report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that many cases of food poisoning are instead actually a stomach virus that you likely picked up from the unwashed hands of the restaurant worker that prepared your food.
This distressing and painful illness is most often caused by a particular virus called norovirus. It is easily spread because the virus is hardy and can live on surfaces for days (or even weeks) and isn’t all that bothered by many hand sanitizers or disinfectants.
Norovirus is spread when an infected individual defecates or vomits. If the virus doesn’t get washed off thoroughly with soap and water, it can be transferred to its next victim. So, if you’ve picked up a stomach bug, you’ve essentially eaten someone else’s poop or puke.
What needs to be done?
The first instinct for many is to stop eating out (and for that I can’t blame you), but what we probably need to focus on are different issues. For starters, employees need to be thoroughly trained on proper hand washing techniques (a thorough scrub with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds) and there needs to be less reliance on hand sanitizers. The CDC reports that when food service employees were observed, they only practice proper hand washing techniques 25 percent of the time so this area needs a massive improvement.
The other important issue that the food service industry is plagued with is that many workers in the restaurant industry work when they’re sick. A lack of paid sick time is a huge factor in this, and many workers also don’t want to put undue strain on their co-workers by being absent.
The CDC recommends that sick employees stay home at least 48 hours after symptoms cease to curb transmission as well, which means that workers could miss at least three days of work if they fall sick in the middle of their workweek. Restaurant staff is also recommended to have an on-call bank of employees to draw from in case of staff shortage.
While this topic is frankly disgusting, it’s important because it’s something that can potentially affect many of us. More awareness is key and if you don’t feel like eating out much after reading this, you still need to make sure you wash your own hands well even after shopping for groceries. You just never know what’s lurking on the food you buy and the money you exchange with others.