Environmental Health and Safety

Food Safety Alert — Norovirus

February 7, 2008

Dear Permitted Food Service Establishment,

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is alerting food service establishments at the University that there are several outbreaks in the Austin area occurring due to norovirus. Norovirus is the most common cause of foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States (causing an estimated 23 million cases per year).

To prevent the spread of norovirus, EHS strongly suggests that you take the following actions to protect your patrons, your employees, and your business:

  • Report any complaints of patron illness to EHS at 512-471-3511.
  • Aggressively ask all employees if they are or have been ill with vomiting and/or diarrhea. Symptoms of a norovirus infection can be found on the norovirus fact sheet.
  • If an employee is sick with vomiting and/or diarrhea, advise them to seek medical attention and advise their physician that they are a food handler.
  • If the employee is positive for norovirus, exclude him or her from work for at least 72 hours after symptoms end because they can continue to shed norovirus in their stool even after they feel better. Notify EHS.
  • If you know that you have had or currently have ill employees, sanitize all food contact surfaces, equipment, and dishes with a minimum 1,000 PPM chlorine solution (1/3 cup bleach per 1 gallon of water).
  • Minimize or eliminate bare hand contact with food — use utensils and gloves.
  • Remind employees to be extra mindful about proper handwashing practices.
  • Test your dishwashing system to ensure that it is operational and provides the proper sanitization levels and temperatures as required.

In addition, you can refer to information from the Centers for Disease Control. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. If you have any questions you can call 512-471-3511. Together we can make a difference in preventing foodborne illness at the University.

Note: requirements may become more restrictive in the event of a campus outbreak.