Could Sick Leave Reduce Foodborne Illness?

Posted on 08-30-2017 by
Tags: restaurant , employees , foodborne illness , sick leave

mortar and pestle 

Foodborne illness is primarily linked to restaurant exposure.  The majority of restaurant foodborne illness results from sick employees.


By: Heather Williams of Robins Cloud LLP

We put a lot of trust in the people who prepare and serve our food.  We expect that our food is safe to eat and handled appropriately.  In the United States, we have standards for food safety and many regulations in place.  Why wouldn’t we trust those who prepare and serve our food?  Unfortunately, a significant number of food workers have admitted to working while knowingly being sick.  There are many reasons someone might do this.  Some do it for financial reasons, others for sense of duty, and then there are some who fear they may lose their job if they do not cover their shift.  Could foodborne illness cases dramatically decrease if food workers could have sick leave, which would allow them monetary compensation for identifying their illness and not passing it on to other unsuspecting patrons? Let”s explore this.

Restaurants Are a Primary Source of Foodborne Outbreaks

 According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 48 million people become ill in the United States each year from foodborne infection.  Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized and foodborne illness claims about 3,000 lives each year.  Over half of all foodborne outbreaks reported to the CDC can be linked back to eating in restaurants or delicatessens.

In one study, a group of investigators gathered data from FoodNet.  This resource is also known as the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, a central databases where participating sites report information regarding foodborne illness.  In a study analyzing 457 foodborne disease outbreaks, 300 were restaurant related.  98% of the 300 had only one contributing factor causing the outbreak.  The most common contributing factor resulting in 137 outbreaks was “handling by an infected person or carrier of pathogen.”  This is a significant number considering one lapse can have such high statistical repercussions.

For expanded coverage, read Robins Cloud's full update on Sick Leave and Reducing Foodborne Illness

For insights into food safety, read Robins Cloud's blog Unsafe Foods

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