As a food handler, you play a crucial role in ensuring that food tastes good but is also safe for consumption.
One way to keep food safe is by reporting certain symptoms and illnesses you experience to your manager since they can lead to a foodborne illness outbreak.
This article explains the five signs and symptoms you must report to your manager as a food handler to keep food safe.
Reportable symptoms and illnesses
If you experience certain symptoms, you must report them to your manager.
They include (1):
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eye whites)
- sore throat with a fever
These symptoms could indicate that you have a foodborne illness, and working with food while you have these symptoms, could easily spread the illness to other people, including both your customers and coworkers.
Vomiting and diarrhea are the most common symptoms of foodborne illness and are highly contagious since these bodily fluids contain the pathogen that caused the illness.
These pathogens can then spread to food or food-contact surfaces and infect others, even with proper handwashing.
You must be symptom-free from diarrhea or vomiting for at least 24 hours before your manager will let you return to work.
Also highly contagious is jaundice, which may be a sign of a liver infection caused by the virus hepatitis A.
Jaundice causes the skin and eye whites to turn yellow because of a high level of bilirubin, a yellow-orange substance, in your blood.
A sore throat with a fever could also indicate that you have a foodborne illness.
You also need to let your manager know if you have an infected wound.
An infected wound can cause pain, swelling, redness, and pus or fluid discharge or drainage.
You will need to cover the infected wound with a waterproof bandage and a single-use glove if the wound is on your hand.
Some foodservice operations require food handlers to wear a brightly colored bandage over the wound so they can more easily identify it if it falls into food.
You must report diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, or a sore throat with a fever to your manager since these symptoms could indicate that you have a foodborne illness. You must also let your manager know if you have an infected wound.
In addition to reporting certain symptoms to your manager, you must also report if you have been diagnosed with or exposed to certain foodborne illnesses.
They include (1):
- hepatitis A
- Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia Coli (STEC)
- Salmonella Typhi (typhoid fever)
- Salmonella (nontyphoidal)
These foodborne illnesses are associated with contaminated produce, undercooked foods, and shellfish from contaminated waters, but they are more commonly spread by an infected food handler.
If you have been diagnosed with one of the illnesses, your manager or the person in charge will need to notify your local health department.
Depending on the illness, your manager will determine when it’s safe for you to return to work.
There are stricter criteria that your manager must follow as to when you can return to work if you serve a highly susceptible population like nursing home residents.
Let your manager know if you have been diagnosed with or exposed to norovirus, hepatitis A, Shigella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), Salmonella typhi (typhoid fever), or Salmonella (nontyphoidal).
Good personal hygiene for food safety
Just as reporting certain symptoms and illnesses to your manager helps keep your customers and coworkers safe, so does following good hygienic practices.
Follow these good personal hygiene tips to keep food safe:
- Fingernails. Keep your fingernails trimmed, filed, and maintained so the edges are smooth. Avoid fingernail polish and artificial nails unless you wear single-use gloves at all times.
- Jewelry. Plain rings like wedding bands without stones or etchings are the only jewelry you can wear.
- Outer clothing. Always wear clean outer clothing and remove your apron when leaving food preparation areas, like to take the garbage out. Never use your apron or chef coat to wipe your hands.
- Eating and drinking. Only consume foods and beverages in designated areas away from food and food-contact surfaces. When working with food, your manager may allow you to drink from a closed beverage.
- Hair restraints. Wear a proper hair restraint like a hat or hair net to keep your hair out of food.
Don’t forget handwashing — one of the best things you can do to keep food safe.
Wash your hands whenever they become contaminated, such as:
- when entering a food preparation area
- before putting on food-safe gloves and between glove changes
- before preparing a special order for someone with a food allergy
- before beginning food preparation or handling clean equipment and utensils
- when changing tasks, such as switching from handling raw or TCS foods to working with ready-to-eat foods
- after handling soiled dishes or utensils
- after touching your face or other parts of your body
- after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, eating, or drinking
- after using the restroom
- after taking out the garbage
Always wash your hands in a designated handwashing sink — never use sinks that are used to prepare foods, wash dishes, or dispose of mop water and other liquid waste.
There are several factors to good personal hygiene that you must follow to keep food safe, with handwashing being one of the best ways.
The bottom line
To keep your customers and coworkers safe, you must report vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, a sore throat with fever, or an infected wound to your manager.
You must also let your manager know if you have been diagnosed with or exposed to norovirus, hepatitis A, Shigella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), Salmonella typhi (typhoid fever), or Salmonella (nontyphoidal).
In addition to reporting these symptoms and illnesses, follow good hygienic practices and wash your hands often to prevent foodborne illnesses.
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