TRI-CITIES, Wash. - Alarming numbers from the Benton Franklin Health District shows a lack of foodborne illness policies in restaurants, fast food joints, grocery stores and schools surveyed in the Tri-Cities. The study was based off a model by the FDA.
A study conducted from 2017-2018 showed that out of 225 facilities surveyed, 95% didn't have a well-developed policy laid out. The policy would help managers determine what employees shouldn't come to work if they call in sick.
"If you have diarrhea or vomiting, you can't go back to work for at least 24 hours from your last symptom," said Lars Richins, Food Program Supervisor at BFHD. "And so if they don't have questions, they don't know when that employee can safely return to work without putting the public at risk."
The 95% who didn't meet the standards means no policy was in place or it didn't meet all the requirements for a "well-developed" policy.
Managers had to answer a questionnaire based on three subjects – reportable symptoms, diagnosed illnesses, and exclusions and restrictions. Many of the major illnesses include hepatitis A and E. coli. However, most of the illnesses reported are attributed to one bug – norovirus, which is extremely contagious.
Richins explains that the establishments should take the proper steps to keep an employee home if they're sick and protect the public.
"We still have people showing up to work either recently had those symptoms or currently have those symptoms and are handling food and they're getting those germs on the food and then people are getting that same virus," Richins said.
They also conducted a study on the occurrence of foodborne illness risk factors in those facilities. It was given to identify five foodborne illness risk factors and links between behaviors and practices of management and the control of those risk factors. Those five factors include food from unsafe sources, improper holding time/temperature, inadequate cooking, poor personal hygiene, and contamination.
Facilities who are already in business aren't required to have a policy. However, new food establishments will need to have one. It's required by the Benton Franklin Health District.
To help facilities build a well-developed policy, they'll soon be providing them with a template that the facility can fit with their place of business. Educational materials will also be provided to reduce the occurrence of foodborne illness risk factors.
To view the full report, click here.