Foodborne Illness and Norovirus

Foodborne illness occurs when people eat food that has been tainted by harmful germs or chemicals. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 48 million foodborne illness cases happen in the U.S. each year, with 128,000 ending up in the hospital and 3,000 dying.[1] As of 2010, norovirus was considered to be the most common foodborne pathogen, causing around 23 million cases of gastroenteritis every year in the U.S. In fact, norovirus is the second most common virus, just after the common cold.

A serious concern for food safety managers is that a food worker with norovirus contaminates food that will be sold or served to a consumer and thereby risk a norovirus outbreak.

The transmission of norovirus

Around 60 percent of all foodborne illness outbreaks are caused by norovirus. [2] Those who work in the food industry ought to be informed on what norovirus is, as well as how to prevent and/or detain the virus when it shows up.

Norovirus is highly contagious, transmitting mainly through the fecal-oral route. It’s either passed from person to person, or through food or water contamination. The CDC asserts that the most common way the virus spreads is through foodborne avenues. For example, a food worker may have norovirus and improperly handle food before it is served, causing the virus to be transmitted to the food. Chances are that whoever eats such food will become infected as well.

Strict food handling guidelines are important for those who work in the food service industry. Guidelines for prevention and clean up can be found at the Centers for Disease Control.