The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claim that restaurant workers who handle food while they are sick play a significant role in causing foodborne illness outbreaks. The study examined 800 outbreaks that occurred in US restaurants between 2017 and 2019 and involved data from 25 state and local health departments. The study found that nearly half of the outbreaks (47%) were attributed to norovirus, a highly contagious pathogen known for causing vomiting and diarrhea. Salmonella, which leads to diarrheal illnesses and other symptoms, was responsible for 19% of the outbreaks. According to the study, about 41% of the restaurant-related outbreaks were linked to workers handling and contaminating food while they were ill. While many restaurants had policies in place to prevent sick staff from working, less than half (44%) offered paid sick leave. The researchers suggest that expanding access to paid sick leave for restaurant workers could discourage them from working while ill by ensuring their financial security.

The study also highlighted communication gaps between restaurants and workers. While most restaurants had written policies requiring staff to inform managers when they were sick and to report specific symptoms, only a small percentage (23%) specified all five symptoms that should prompt someone to stay home from work. The CDC recommends implementing more comprehensive food safety policies to minimize contamination. Bill Marler, an attorney specializing in foodborne illness cases, suggests that hepatitis A vaccinations for restaurant workers could be a proactive measure to prevent outbreaks. Ensuring access to paid sick leave, improving communication between restaurants and workers, and implementing comprehensive food safety policies are crucial steps in reducing foodborne illnesses and protecting both employees and consumers.