Biohazards Clean-up in Food Establishments
The restaurant business can be messy. Biohazards in food establishments come from many sources and clean-up of bodily fluids is a more necessary occurrence that you would think. Think about this possible scenario… a customer vomits on the floor near the buffet at a local restaurant. Other customers and employees get sick over the next few days, eventually growing to a Norovirus outbreak of several hundred persons. Several people sue the restaurant , trying to prove that the restaurant didn’t clean up the vomiting accidents properly, and that employees were allowed to work and handle foods while they were sick, further spreading the outbreak. Though they might never prove what exactly caused the illnesses, it could cost the restaurant hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, not to mention bad publicity and damage to their reputation.
Situations like this can be catastrophic for a restaurant, especially small operations that often never recover from an outbreak, according to the National Restaurant Association. Bodily fluid accidents are common in foodservice and they can carry significant biological hazards, including Norovirus, Hepatitis A, HIV, and E. coli. Because of the risk of these biohazards, FDA 2017 Food Code, Section 2-501.11 states that food establishments must have written procedures in place for cleaning up vomit or diarrheal events, whether involving customers or employees:
2-501.11 Clean-up of Vomiting and Diarrheal Events.
A FOOD ESTABLISHMENT shall have written procedures for EMPLOYEES to follow when responding to vomiting or diarrheal events that involve the discharge of vomitus or fecal matter onto surfaces in the FOOD ESTABLISHMENT. The procedures shall address the specific actions EMPLOYEES must take to minimize the spread of contamination and the exposure of EMPLOYEES, consumers, FOOD, and surfaces to vomitus or fecal matter.
No matter which version of the Food Code your state is following, food establishments should have written clean up procedures in place for vomit or diarrheal accidents, (i.e., written materials or instructional posters) and consider these best practices:
- Materials to immediately block off affected area
- Biohazard Spill Kit and clean-up materials available and dedicated for cleaning vomit, diarrhea, bodily fluids
- Personal Protective Equipment, (eg, disposable gloves, goggles, apron, mask, booties)
- EPA approved disinfectant for contaminated surfaces (Note: Regular sanitizing methods are not effective in killing Norovirus, nor is quaternary ammonium. Norovirus disinfection requires a chlorine solution concentration of 5000 ppm or other EPA approved disinfectant effective against TB and Norovirus.)
- Train staff on proper response before an accident occurs, and ensure that written procedures are available
By Cindy Rice, RS, CP-FS, MSPH Eastern Food Safety
Biohazard Spill Clean-Up for Foodservice Operations
Ecolab's Biohazard Spill Clean-Up Kit can help safely clean, disinfect, and dispose of bodily fluid spills in your foodservice operation.