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Breaking Down the CDC’s Report for Restauranteurs

The Executive Briefing - Friday, June 2nd

CDC Finds That Employees Who Work Sick Are The Leading Cause of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

Here's what you need to know.The CDC released a groundbreaking report this week that goes into depth on 800 restaurant outbreaks that took place between 2017 and 2019.

Key Findings:

Employees who worked sick were linked to 41% of foodborne illness outbreaks with a known cause.

Employees working sick was the leading cause of outbreaks.

Very few restaurants involved in outbreaks had a sufficient written foodborne illness policy.

While most had some sort of policy, few were comprehensive enough to cover key foodborne illness symptoms and require employees to report those.

Most restaurants didn’t have paid sick leave.

Employees cited loss of pay and perceived social pressure as the two most common reasons for working sick.

Process impacts food safety.

Cool is key - Over 1 in 5 outbreaks had issues with improper or slow cooling after cooking, or improper cold holding temperatures.

Complexity matters - Outbreaks were more likely in restaurants with complicated prep processes that included cooking, cooling, and reheating.

Most restaurants involved in outbreaks had at least one critical violation on their last health inspection.

Half of the restaurants studied had two or more critical violations on their most recent inspection.

What You Need To Take Away From This Report:

Don’t let employees work sick.

  • Contamination from a sick employee is the #1 threat in terms of foodborne illness outbreaks.

Use a sick call program.

  • ZHH offers a sick call program where sick employees are asked about key symptoms and then text directly with a clinical professional who determines when it’s safe for them to return to work.
  • This helps take sick calls off a manager’s plate and drastically reduces your chances of employees working sick

Review & enforce your foodborne illness policy.

  • ZHH can support your team with updating or writing a new sick call policy. We’ll make sure it hits all the key points that the CDC looks for in investigations like this one.
  • Focus on realistic ways to enforce your ill worker policy, like manager training and sick call programs.
  • Expect renewed focus from health departments on your foodborne illness policies.

Run a risk assessment of your restaurants (or update the one you have).

  • Any restaurants with critical violations are at higher risk of an outbreak. Consider switching to daily wellness checks at those locations or doing additional training on your sick call policy.
  • Ensure effective temperature controls and consider simplifying processes in high-risk restaurants.

Consider expanding paid sick leave.

  • If hourly employees don’t have paid sick leave, expanding that benefit would likely reduce the amount that sick employees work.

We know that outbreaks are a scary prospect -  but ZHH has been supporting restaurants for over 30 years. ZHH can help you build a culture of food safety, prevent employees from working ill, and manage foodborne illness incidents before they become outbreaks.  

Health News:

  • Denials of health insurance claims are rising - and getting more absurd as they’re handled with less care. (KFF News)
  • Remote work is associated with a rise in substance use disorders. (SHRM)
  • France has had nine cases of severe infant sepsis due to Enterovirus. Seven babies have died and two are still hospitalized. (WHO)
  • ‘Staggering numbers’ of Americans are losing Medicaid coverage, sure to affect employees and their families. (KFF News)
  • The FDA greenlit another RSV vaccine, this one from Pfizer, even as people are more skeptical of vaccines than ever. (WSJ)
  • Three children died in hot cars across three states, prompting warnings to caregivers. (Washington Post)
  • Giving cash grants to poor families or individuals lowered deaths of women and young children. (NY Times)
  • The DOT issued new guidance for Substance Abuse Professionals to align with their new Drug Free Workplace guidelines. (DOT)
  • Pfizer’s experimental antibiotic combination works against some superbug infections, they say. (Reuters)
  • Long COVID survivors with depressive and cognitive symptoms show signs of brain inflammation. (CIDRAP)
  • 96% of Americans have some immunity against COVID - either from infection, vaccination, or both. (CDC)
  • NYC wastewater shows the city’s COVID levels are rising. (Gothamist)

Mental Health News:

  • The National Eating Disorder Association shut down the AI chatbot it planned to use to replace humans, saying it ‘may have given’ harmful information. (Fortune)
  • Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the US, but perhaps the least understood. (NY Times)
  • A catatonic woman woke up after 14 years, after doctors linked her symptoms to an autoimmune disorder and began treating it. Her story may change psychiatry for good. (Washington Post)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or need help, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, you can call 800-931-2237 Mon-Fri from 8:30-4:30pm PST.

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.