A control measure is simply what steps you are going to take to remove a hazard (eliminate) or at least reduce it to a low level (minimise).
Education/Training/Instruction for Food Handlers
The key to the prevention of contamination of food by food handlers is food handler training and the ability to maintain high standards of hygiene.
Food Handlers should have ongoing training and instruction in the importance of personal hygiene and hand washing.
Protective Clothing, Gloves, use of metal strip plasters on cuts, hair nets, beard masks, minimum jewellery / makeup
Hygiene Facilities and Hand Hygiene for Food Handlers
- Hand washing facilities
- Toilet facilities
Self-Reporting of specific health conditions and infections by Food Handlers to management
The most common symptoms of an infection are:
Other symptoms include:
- Sore throat with fever
- Infected skin lesions / infected cuts on exposed skin
Work Exclusion / Restriction
It is best to assume that the cause of any of these symptoms is an infection and the food handler should be excluded until they are fit to resume food handling duties.
In certain circumstances, food handlers will need to be temporarily excluded from work or restricted to non-food handling duties to reduce the risk of spreading infection via food. The decision to exclude or restrict any food handler should be based on individual risk assessment.
Fitness to Return to Work
In most cases of infection, bacteria and viruses can still be found in faeces after symptoms stop. It is therefore important that managers continue to exclude food handlers for a period of time after this. 48 hours is the recommended length of time. This is counted from the time that symptoms (mainly diarrhoea) stop of their own accord or from the end of any treatment of the symptoms with medicine such as anti-diarrhoeal drugs (if they are used).
You can count from the time of the first normal stool if you aren’t sure when symptoms ended.
It is reasonable to presume that a single bout (e.g. one loose stool) or incidence of vomiting is not infectious if 24 hours have elapsed without any further symptoms and this is not accompanied by fever. In this case, as long as there is no other evidence to suggest an infectious cause, the person would only pose a very low risk of being infected and could resume work before the 48-hour limit. Extra care should be taken over personal hygiene practices on return to work though, especially hand washing.
If the food handler is diagnosed with a specific infection, this may require specific action. Refer to National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) publication Preventing Foodborne Disease: A focus on the infected Food Handler (2004) for specific requirements.
Medical Certification of Fitness for Work
Some EU Directives demand pre-employment and/or routine (annual) medical examination of food handlers in certain sectors. Annual medical certification is a legal requirement for food workers in meat plants, plants producing meat products and minced meat production plants; workers in the dairy sector who handle raw milk have to ensure that there is no impediment to such employment; medical certification is required of food workers in the fish processing sector at the time of recruitment. Primary producers, i.e. farmers & fishermen, are excluded from this requirement.
For these groups there is an obligation:
‘to prove, by a medical certificate, that there is no impediment to such employment’ and, where annual certification is a prerequisite, that ‘medical certificates shall be renewed every year unless another staff medical check-up scheme can offer equivalent guarantees to the satisfaction of a veterinary inspector. The owner or person in charge of an establishment shall ensure that these medical certificates are available for inspection on request by an authorised officer.’
The legal requirement for medical certification of food handlers applies to certain well defined sectors of the food industry. Although most sectors are excluded, the requirement is a source of some perplexity. There is evidence of inconsistency and confusion in practice in some of those sectors for which it is not a legal requirement.