15857489168_a4c0e521c9_mIn the midst of the E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in Washington and Oregon—usually a lunchtime staple for the busy worker—we are reminded that it’s that time of year again when potlucks and catered parties begin to fill the work week. Often, employees are asked to bring a dish and do so with the best intentions of impressing their coworkers with their culinary skills. Sometimes, however, these festive party participants leave a not-so-pleasant impression: food poisoning. Many may opt to provide catered food service to reduce the chances of people getting sick. Unfortunately, just because food may come from a restaurant, there is still no guarantee it will be safe. Last year, a catered office holiday party in Florida resulted in 55 people getting severely sick from food poisoning. Many were transported to local hospitals, and the FBI and the DHS were notified as some people were so sick they passed out. Food poisoning can come from anyway even from your favorite restaurant and can cause harm to those who don’t have the best immune system to fight off what has entered the body. It is an unpleasant experience that means you might be unable to work for a long time. If you are affected by something like this, you might be interested in talking to someone like this Smyrna personal injury attorney to help you with your case. The CDC eventually linked the cause of the incident to two bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus, both of which are consequences of improperly handling and storing food. Whether bought or brought, it is important that proper food safety measures are taken to ensure your employees and others are able to fully enjoy themselves. Generally, food poisoning is spread from poor hand-washing practices or not keeping food at the right temperature. Here, we’ve listed actions you can take to reduce the risk of spreading foodborne illnesses in the workplace and instructions to follow in the event of an outbreak. Preventing the Spread of Foodborne Illness—Home Preparation

  • Do not prepare food if you have contagious infections, especially a nose, eye, or skin infection.
  • Wash your hands and under fingernails with soap and water before food preparation and consumption.
  • Wash surfaces and utensils after each use.
  • Clean produce thoroughly before consuming.
  • Separate raw meat from all other food products.
  • Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils for raw produce and for raw meat.
  • Cook meat, poultry, and eggs thoroughly. Click here for a Foodsafety.gov chart on Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures.
  • Chill all food leftovers promptly and at proper temperatures. Click here for Foodsafety.gov charts on properly storing food.
  • Report suspected food poisoning cases to local authorities.

Preventing the Spread of Foodborne Illness—Catered Events

  • Do not serve food for others if you have contagious infections, especially a nose, eye, or skin infection.
  • Wash hands and under fingernails with soap and water before serving food for others.
  • Keep food serving areas clean and sanitized.
  • Keep hot foods hot (typically over 140°F) and cold food colds (typically below 40°F).

In the Event of an Outbreak

  • Pay close attention to any food and beverage you consume, especially if the source of the outbreak has not been identified.
  • Cooperate with all medical investigators and other team members. You may need to assist investigators to identify possible sources of the illness.
  • Even if you are not ill, be willing to be interviewed about the foods you ate during a certain period of time.
  • If possible, determine onset times, symptoms, and duration of the foodborne illness.
  • If you can, isolate and properly store suspected food and drink samples that may be the source of food poisoning. Do not throw away the food until the investigation is complete.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.

For more information on holding a safe holiday work party, read the USDA blog post, “How to NOT Give Your Office Food Poisoning at the Holiday Party.” To get a better understanding of foodborne illnesses and to download the “Responding to Foodborne Illness” checklist, visit the Health Threats section in the Knowledge Center of your portal. If you would like to know more ways to prepare your workforce for potential health threats, contact your Customer Success representative.