By Michael Hughes
So, what is infection control? No, it has nothing to do with zombies (although with better procedures in place, I’m sure many cases of zombie infection might have been avoided!). Infection control is an important part of the food safety chain starting with the raw materials all the way to the finished product. A good infection control procedure is designed to limit the potential of a communicable infection spreading through the work place and into any food products.
What kinds of infectious diseases are we talking about?
There are many different kinds of infectious diseases out there that you need to be aware of, but there are three at the top of the chain: Gastroenteritis, Norovirus and good old Influenza.
Gastro is a common infection that any of us with kids has probably had the misfortune of experiencing at one time or another. Gastro comes in both viral and bacterial flavours, but the most common is the highly contagious viral form which can spread incredibly quickly through workplaces and schools. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea, nausea, fever, stomach pain and headaches and muscle aches. If you have an outbreak at a place of work, you must ensure you do what you can to reduce the spread of infection. Any infected staff must obviously remain away from the work place and depending on policy, may require a medical certificate before they can resume their duties. Other things that should be done to protect both the staff and food product are:
– Having correct hand washing procedures in place and make sure staff adhere to them
– Make sure all surfaces are cleaned thoroughly in line with current cleaning procedures
– Protect yourself against infection as best possible
– Wear protective gloves and clothing were appropriate
– Wash hands before and after handling any potentially infected items using soap and running water
Norovirus is a viral infection that results in…gastro! Like gastro the symptoms will be the same as will be the methods of transmission and prevention.
Commonly known as the flu, influenza is highly contagious and is usually spread via bodily fluids – most commonly coughing and sneezing.
Help, I’m infected!
Stay away from work. Seriously, if you work in the food industry and you suspect you might have contracted an infectious disease, call in and let the correct people know and then make a doctor’s appointment as soon as practically possible. While adults can usually fight off some of the more common illnesses with a few days of rest and recuperation, these same diseases can be fatal for the elderly, young children, or the sick. As a business, it’s your responsibility to ensure you not only provide a safe working environment, but also ensure your product is not exposed to any unnecessary risk of infectious contagions.
Control the outbreak
If you do experience an outbreak, it’s important you control it as soon as possible.
- Notification of the outbreak: Collate information and make sure it gets to the right people, including your own staff as well as the relevant people either upstream or downstream from your place in the food chain
- Testing: Follow all relevant procedures to ensure any testing is done and ready for council checks
- Food handling: Review any product that has been exposed to potential infection for the last 48 hours
- Cleaning: Make sure all staff are aware and adhere to cleaning procedures to limit the risk of exposure to infection to themselves and others
- Staff: Any staff who are infected must remain away from the workplace. Depending on the type of infection, they may also need a doctor’s certificate before re-commencing their duties
It’s practically impossible to have a work place free from illness and infection, which is why it is so important to have a robust infection control plan in place. Remember that while illness and infection can cost you money through productivity loss, those same illnesses and infections can become deadly in the correct circumstances.