Don’t cook when you’re crook

Posted by Josette Dunn on 19th July 2010

With the chill of winter well and truly upon us, the risk of viral gastro contamination heats up, Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan warned today as he urged chefs and cooks to take care in the kitchen during the peak viral gastro season.”This warning applies particularly to those food industry professionals who come into contact with the preparation and service of food for hundreds, if not thousands of people,” Minister Whan said.

“If you’re crook don’t cook is a good basic rule to apply in the workplace.”

“Under the Food Standards Code it is illegal for food handlers to handle food when they have gastric illness. It is also illegal for food businesses to knowingly have staff working if they have gastric illness.

“The NSW Food Authority is aware of cases where staff have been asked to work when they were sick, or have not told their supervisor they were sick, putting many people at risk.

Minister Whan said this is concerning because outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis generally increase in winter.

“Viral illnesses are a common cause of gastrointestinal illness and can often be confused with food poisoning,” Minister Whan said.

“Viral gastroenteritis is highly infectious and can be easily and quickly passed from person to person.

“If careful hygiene practices are not observed when preparing food the infection can be easily spread.”

Symptoms of viral gastroenteritis can include vomiting and diarrhoea and may also include headache and muscle aches.

Symptoms may take one to three days to develop and can last for one to two days, sometimes longer.

As a precaution it is recommended that people who have gastro do not prepare food for 48 hours after their symptoms finish.

“It is important for people in the food preparation and food service industry to understand and observe that precaution,” Minister Whan said.

“If you are unwell you need to let your manager know immediately and supervisors need to understand the importance of ensuring unwell staff do not return to the workplace for a full 2 days after their symptoms end.

“Of course the normal food safety standards apply all year round whereby foodservice premises must have appropriate hand washing facilities and staff must observe correct food handling procedure.”