The work culture in your establishment must be friendly for employees to take time off when they are feeling ill, as per code established by the CDC, and for good reason. Bacteria and viruses are in a breeding ground in both the front and the back of the house of restaurants and everywhere during food production.
Contagious conditions depends on the type of bacteria or virus, what kind of surface they are on and what the surrounding environment is like, for example, if it’s hot, cold, damp or dry, on a smooth surface or a porous surface, skin or opened wound. Harmful bacteria can easily spread onto anything it touches including skin, towels, food, work stations, cutting boards, knives, food prep containers, tables and chairs.
Common Cold Viruses
There are many different types of viruses can cause colds. These viruses can survive on indoor surfaces for more than seven days. In general, viruses survive longer on non-porous, water resistant surfaces such as tabletops, counter tops made from stainless steel and plastic surfaces such as cutting boards. Cold viruses survive shorter periods on porous surfaces, such as fabric table clothes, napkins and aprons and paper products like paper towels, napkins and to go packing materials.
Although cold viruses have been shown to survive on surfaces for several days, their ability to cause an infection reduces rapidly and they don’t often survive longer than 24 hours except under the ‘right conditions’ that include moisture and air, which is readily available in a kitchen.
Most viruses, which cause colds, only survive on hands for a short amount of time. Some only last for a few minutes but 40% of rhinoviruses, a common cold-causing virus, are still infectious on hands after one hour. Water over 100ºF and soap for over 20 seconds and wiped with paper towels are an absolute necessity and these code violations can result in a shut down of a commercial food operation.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), another cold-like virus that can cause serious illness in children, can survive on worktops and door handles for up to six hours, on clothing, and tissues for 30-45 minutes and on skin for up to 20 minutes.
The Flu Viruses
The flu viruses is capable of being transferred to hands and causing an infection can survive on hard surfaces, like counters and tables, for 24 hours. Infectious flu viruses can survive on paper products for only 15 minutes.
Like cold viruses, infectious flu viruses survive for much shorter periods on the hands. After five minutes the amount of flu virus on hands falls to low levels, but glove changes and diligent hand washing must take place in those first five minutes following a sneeze, cough or wipe of a facial feature.
Flu viruses can also survive as droplets in the air for several hours; low temperatures increase their survival in the air, but kitchens don’t have low temperatures and moisture is always in the air of a commercial kitchen.
Para influenza virus, which settles into the lungs, can survive for up to 10 hours on hard surfaces and up to four hours on soft surfaces.
Stomach Bacteria and Viruses
Sometimes mistaken for food poisoning there are many germs that can cause an upset stomach, and some are serious enough to cause death. These include bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) and campylobacter, as well as viruses such as rotavirus and norovirus. The symptoms of the norovirus, which appear 2 days after being infected, are very similar to food poisoning.
Salmonella and campylobacter survive for short periods of around 1-4 hours on hard surfaces or fabrics. Norovirus and C. difficile, however, can survive for much longer. In one study, C. difficile was shown to survive for five months. Norovirus can survive for days or weeks on hard surfaces.
When someone with norovirus vomits, the virus is distributed in small droplets in the air. These droplets can settle on surfaces, causing the virus to spread, so it’s important to clean surfaces thoroughly with antibacterial products to avoid a norovirus outbreak.
Most stomach bugs can be removed effectively by proper hand washing procedure. To help prevent the spread of stomach bugs make sure that your staff washes their hands thoroughly and regularly, particularly after going to the toilet, and prepare that food prep areas are kept sanitized and that the food served with being aware of all hand contact with the food on the plate.
The staphylococcus aurous bacteria, is highly contagious with cuts and burns, survive for days to weeks on surfaces. This super bug is also known as MRSA, these nasty bacteria can live on surfaces for longer than most other bacteria and viruses because they survive better without moisture and even survive being frozen. Generally, MRSA bacteria survive longer on hard surfaces than on soft surfaces, but this is an anti-biotic resistant bacteria and requires serious medicine and possible hospital stay to cure.
Herpes Virus from cold sores can be found around the mouth, and can survive for two hours on the skin. If a member of your staff has a cold sore they should be sent home for 3-5 days until it is no longer visible. These are highly contagious as well as being unsightly and a complete turn off to hunger, in letting employees work with herpes you are leaving your business vulnerable to not only loosing customers, but leaving your business susceptible to not only complaints to the CDC from your customers but to a potential shut down.
Let Inspector Good check on the personal hygiene habits of your staff and the sanitary conditions of your business environment, sometimes an outside voice is more effective than the in house voice. You know I’m right. If you’re tired of telling your staff the same procedures over and over, let an outside official set them straight.