FoodHander Inc FoodHander Inc - Food Safety
Food Safety
Frequently Asked Questions
One of my employees was at a function that had a confirmed foodborne outbreak, though this person did not get ill. Is there a risk to my customers and other employees?

Yes! Some food employees or conditional employees may report a possible exposure to an agent. For example, a food employee may have attended a function at which the food employee ate food that was associated with an outbreak of shigellosis, but the employee remains well. Such individuals fall into the category of having had a potential exposure and present a lower risk to public health than someone who is either symptomatic or who has a definitive diagnosis. They present a level of risk to public health that is greater than if they had not had the exposure. The approach taken in the Food Code to food employees who have had a potential exposure is based on the incubation times (time between exposure and the onset of symptoms) of the various agents. The times chosen for restriction are the upper end of the average incubation periods for the specific agents. The reasoning is that this will restrict food employees only up to the time when it is unlikely they will develop symptoms. As a further protection to public health, it is recommended that such exposed food employees pay particular attention to personal hygiene and report the onset of any symptoms. This situation describes the fourth level of risk (lowest level of risk) in transmitting pathogens to food. Risk Levels 1, 2 and 3 will be discussed over the next few months. For further information on determining a restriction of an employee see Decision Tree 2 – Annex 3 page 334 in the 2005 FDA Food Code.


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I need assistance in creating an employee illness policy. Can you help?

Yes! The development and effective implementation of an employee health policy based on the provisions in Subpart 2-201 may help to prevent foodborne illness associated with contamination of food by ill or infected food employees. The person in charge and food employees should be familiar with and able to provide the following information through direct dialogue when interviewed by facility managers or regulatory officials.

When designing and implementing an employee health policy, the following information should be considered and addressed:

  1. Does the establishment have an Employee Health Policy? If so, are the food employees aware of the employee health policy, and is it available in written format and readily available for food employees?
  2. Does the establishment require conditional employees and food employees to report certain illnesses, conditions, symptoms, and exposures?
  3. Are the reporting requirements explained to all employees?
  4. What are the reporting requirements for conditional employees, food employees, and the food establishment manager?
  5. Are conditional employees asked if they are experiencing certain symptoms or illnesses upon offer of employment? If so, which symptoms or illnesses?
  6. If a food employee reports a diagnosis with one of the 5 listed pathogens in the Food Code, what questions are asked of the food employee? (The first question every food manager should ask a food employee who reports diagnosis with a listed pathogen is if the employee is currently having any symptoms.)
  7. Who does the establishment notify when a food employee reports a diagnosis with one of the listed pathogens?
  8. What gastrointestinal symptoms would require exclusion of a food employee from the food establishment?
  9. What history of exposure is a conditional employee or food employee required to report?
  10. If a food employee reports a gastrointestinal symptom, what criteria are used to allow the employee to return to work?

These questions will certainly help you in establishing an employee health policy in your facility.  If you have further questions, see the 2005 FDA Food Code, Annex 7, Forms, Guides and Other Aids for assistance.


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Can I ask any potential new employee questions pertaining to their health status in an interview?

NO!  Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits medical examinations and inquiries as to the existence, nature, or severity of a disability before extending a conditional offer of employment. In order for the permit holder and the person in charge to be in compliance with this particular aspect of the Code and the ADA, a conditional job offer must be made before making inquiries about the applicant’s health status. When the conditional offer is made to the prospective employee you may then ask them detailed health questions. See Form 1-A in Annex 7.

For more detailed information about the interaction between the FDA Food Code and the ADA, consult:

How to Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Restaurants and Other Food Service Employers, found at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/restaurant_guide.html or http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/restaurant_guide_summary.html


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During the second interview with a conditional employee, the employee has reported a disease or symptom listed in the Food Code. What do I do?

If a conditional employee reports a disease or symptom listed in the Food Code and shows that the disease or symptom makes the conditional employee an individual with an ADA disability, the employer may withdraw the job offer only if:

  • The job involves food handling.
  • The employer determines that either there is no reasonable accommodation that would eliminate the risk of transmitting the disease through food, or any such accommodation would be an undue hardship to the business.
  • There is no need to offer the conditional employee a vacant position not involving food handling as a reasonable accommodation.

It should be noted that the information provided here about the ADA is intended to alert employers to the existence of ADA and related CFR requirements. For a comprehensive understanding of the ADA and its implications, consult the references listed in Annex 2 that relate to this section of the Code or contact the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. See the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s How to Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Restaurants and Other Food Service Employers, found at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/restaurant_guide.html or http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/restaurant_guide_summary.html for detailed information about the interaction between the FDA Food Code and the ADA.

The information required from applicants and food employees is designed to identify employees who may be suffering from a disease that can be transmitted through food. It is the responsibility of the permit holder to convey to applicants and employees the importance of notifying the person in charge of changes in their health status. Once notified, the person in charge can take action to prevent the likelihood of the transmission of foodborne illness. Applicants, to whom a conditional offer of employment is extended, and food employees are required to report their specific history of exposure, medical symptoms, and previous illnesses. The symptoms listed in the Food Code may be indicative of a disease that is transmitted through the food supply by infected food employees.

 


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I have an employee who has symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. What do I need to do?

By using Decision Tree 1 (FDA Food Code Annex, Page 333) you will be able to resolve the issue of exclusion or restriction. www.fda.gov


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I have an employee who has a severe case of vomiting/morning sickness due to pregnancy. Is she allowed to do food preparation?

It is necessary to exclude food employees symptomatic with diarrhea, vomiting, or jaundice, or suffering from a disease likely to be transmitted through contamination of food, because of the increased risk that the food being prepared will be contaminated such as with a pathogenic microorganism. However, if the food employee is suffering from vomiting or diarrhea symptoms, and the condition is from a non-infectious condition, Crohn’s disease or an illness during early stages of a pregnancy, the risk of transmitting a pathogenic microorganism is minimal. In this case, the food employee may remain working in a full capacity if they can substantiate that the symptom is from a noninfectious condition. The food employee can substantiate this through providing to the person in charge medical documentation or other documentation proving that the symptom is from a noninfectious condition. 


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I’ve just found out that I have an employee who has been diagnosed with hepatitis A infection. What do I do now?

Follow this chart in determining your responsibilities as a Person in Charge

HSP – Highly Susceptible Populations
RA – Regulatory Authority

Food employees diagnosed with hepatitis A virus are always excluded if diagnosed within 14 days of exhibiting any illness symptom, until at least 7 days after the onset of jaundice, or until medically cleared as specified under subparagraphs 2-201.13(B)(1) - (4).

Food employees diagnosed with hepatitis A virus are always excluded if diagnosed within 14 days of exhibiting any illness symptom, until at least 7 days after the onset of jaundice, or until medically cleared as specified under subparagraph 2-201.13(B)(1)-(3).


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