Norovirus and Our Food

Norovirus can infect food when infected people either have vomit or stool on their hands and then touch food. Do they know they have such nasty microscopic germs on their hands? Not usually.

A typical scenario that could affect all of us

For example, Jim is a fast-food worker at a popular fast food joint. Fortunately, he was off over the weekend, because he had what he called “a stomach bug”. (Aka norovirus). He feels fine on Monday morning and heads off to work preparing lots of food for people throughout the day. Little does he know that he is still contagious with norovirus for up to two weeks after the symptoms have subsided.[1]

Jim uses the restroom three times that day and thankfully, he does run his hands through water because he knows he is supposed to do this or he could get into big trouble at work. The problem is that Jim really has no idea of what norovirus is and how to keep it from spreading. His 10 seconds of letting water run over his hands will not kill norovirus germs, so he touches food all day long while his hands are transmitting “the bug” to the food, ultimately infecting those of us who eat it.

Scenarios like this could happen every day in restaurants, grocery stores, schools and more, assuring that norovirus and foodborne illness continues to thrive. Although this type of scenarios is common, the spread of norovirus can be reduced if we all get familiar with what norovirus is all about and take important prevention steps.

Virus spreading opportunities are everywhere

Norovirus thrives in food and loves to wreak havoc on the digestive system. Therefore, it is essential that hands are kept clean and kitchen environments are kept clean and sanitized. Just think of all the things you touch each day while you are out in the community: door handles, shopping carts, fresh produce, items at the store, the buttons on the credit card processor while checking out, the gas nozzle, the mail box (that the mail man touched) and so on. Do you see how easy it can be to pick up some nasty norovirus germs throughout the day? Just think of how many things your child touches while at school?

The truth is that norovirus does tend to flourish, but we can all do a better job at preventing the virus from spreading by thoroughly washing our hands, food, and surfaces. We can all be a bit more mindful of our behaviors when it comes to handling food and taking care of ourselves should we catch norovirus.