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Major CDC Warning About Nation’s Restaurants

Woman at a restaurant
Creatas/Thinkstock
Think of the nasty norovirus and you’re likely to think of outbreaks on cruise ships. This week the CDC said it’s far more likely you’ll catch it at your local restaurant. The numbers are disturbing. Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States, and restaurant workers not washing their hands, handling food without gloves, and coming to work sick with diarrhea and vomiting are overwhelmingly the cause. One in five workers are coming to work sick with those symptoms. There are 5 million foodborne norovirus cases in the U.S. every year. Restaurants account for two thirds of those cases, with banquets and catering sites next. In cases where the cause of contamination was known, the poor hygiene of food workers was the reason for 70% of them. Workers touching food with bare hands were explicitly responsible for half of those.

I worked in fast food joints where I saw managers tell workers to throw food back onto grills after things had fallen onto dirty floors. I’ve seen workers who were supposed to wear gloves go entire shifts without putting any on. I’ve seen waitresses with bronchitis carry drinks to tables with their fingers on the insides of the glasses. I’ve seen salad bars infested with cockroaches. I won’t name any businesses, but I’ve seen plenty to make me think twice about going out.

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