According to a recent CDC study, restaurant workers who handle food while they are sick contribute significantly to foodborne illness outbreaks. The study analyzed 800 outbreaks in US restaurants between 2017 and 2019 and involved data from 25 state and local health departments. Norovirus, a highly contagious pathogen causing vomiting and diarrhea, accounted for 47% of the outbreaks, while salmonella was responsible for 19%. Around 41% of the restaurant-related outbreaks were linked to workers handling and contaminating food while sick. Although many restaurants had policies to prevent sick staff from working, only 44% provided paid sick leave. The researchers suggest that expanding access to paid sick leave for restaurant workers could discourage them from working while ill by providing financial security.

The study also revealed communication gaps between restaurants and workers. While most restaurants had written policies requiring staff to inform managers when they were sick and report symptoms, only 23% specified all five symptoms that should prompt someone to stay home from work. The CDC recommends implementing comprehensive food safety policies to minimize contamination. A foodborne illness attorney proposes hepatitis A vaccinations for restaurant workers as 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 for reducing foodborne illnesses and protecting both employees and consumers.