Food poisoning cases spike in the warmer months, primarily due to the microorganisms that can grow on food when distractions at outdoor gatherings cause individuals to leave food sitting out in tepid temperatures. In one state, the reason for a sudden increase in food poisoning cases is quite different, as the state health department is calling on restaurants to be more vigilant of food servers’ hand hygiene.
Food Safety News has reported that health department officials in Minnesota are advising residents of the state to protect themselves against norovirus. Norovirus—often indicated by symptoms like body aches, chills, vomiting, and gastrointestinal symptoms—has been on the rise throughout Minnesota in recent weeks, according to local TV news station KIMT3. Sign up for the Eat This, Not That! newsletter for food safety news you need. Then on June 14, the Minnesota Department of Health posted a public notice for residents and restaurant operators:
“Norovirus is a very contagious foodborne virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. The increase comes after a time of reduced outbreak activity [of norovirus] in food establishments during the COVID-19 pandemic … As COVID restrictions are lifting, please be aware that other communicable diseases such as norovirus are still a problem in Minnesota, and you can take measures to prevent spread among your staff and patrons.”
Food Safety News describes the rather graphic way norovirus is transmitted: “Norovirus is spread by microscopic particles of feces or vomit from an infected person. The virus can float in the air for relatively long periods of time and easily lives on hard surfaces.” They add that norovirus can pass onto hands and other body parts from surfaces, eating utensils, and bodily contact with another individual who has had or been exposed to the virus.
The Minnesota Health Department listed guidelines for restaurant workers to follow: Practice frequent handwashing, wear gloves when handling food, and stay away from the workplace for at least 24 hours after norovirus symptoms have passed. Also read Popular Foods That Are Wrecking Your Belly, Say Nutrition Experts, and get more food safety news: