DENMARK – Despite efforts by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration to educate kitchen staff, uncertainty persists among chefs and kitchen workers regarding the management of norovirus in restaurant kitchens.

With norovirus being the leading cause of foodborne outbreaks in Denmark, addressing this issue is crucial for safeguarding public health and minimizing the risk of contamination in ready-to-eat (RTE) food.

A control and guidance campaign launched by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration targeted restaurants, kitchens, and food suppliers, aiming to enhance awareness and practices related to norovirus prevention.

Over 800 visits were conducted from June to November 2023, focusing on training employees in personal hygiene, notifying staff about symptoms, and fulfilling employer obligations to prevent foodborne virus contamination.

Regardless of the campaign’s efforts, many kitchen managers admitted to lacking procedures for handling norovirus and instructing employees on appropriate actions if affected.

The campaign highlighted the need for clear protocols regarding employee health, including symptoms of norovirus, and emphasized the importance of employee notification and employer obligations to prevent foodborne virus contamination.

While the campaign found that all visited companies had adequate hygiene procedures in place, the high number of norovirus outbreaks in recent years suggests discrepancies between regulatory compliance and daily operational practices. Detecting issues with a single pre-announced inspection proves challenging, indicating the need for ongoing monitoring and education.

Key findings and concerns

Two notable control findings included the absence of necessary handwashing facilities at some sites and a lack of awareness among participants regarding General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules related to employee health inquiries.

The prevalence of norovirus-related outbreaks in recent years highlights the urgency of addressing these gaps and ensuring effective measures are implemented across the food industry.

The campaign stressed the importance of industry-wide awareness and access to guidance from regulatory authorities.

It builds upon previous initiatives aimed at reducing foodborne virus transmission, aligning with the agency’s strategy to minimize foodborne illnesses. Efforts to educate kitchen staff and companies about norovirus transmission and prevention remain ongoing, reflecting a commitment to enhancing food safety standards and protecting public health.

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