He said, she said: Salmonella/Holiday Inn edition

The manager of a Fayetteville, NC Holiday Inn is disputing the NC Department of Health & Human Services (NCDHHS) assessment of factors that led to a salmonellosis outbreak in May. NCDHHS says that food workers showing up to work while ill was among the potential issues that likely contributed to over 100 illnesses.AOW1-220x165

From the NCDHHS report:

The hotel agreed to set aside two conference rooms for one day to allow for staff interviews to be conducted by CCHD and NC DPH personnel. Among the 176 hotel staff, 141 staff interviews were completed. Twenty-three of 140 staff interviewed met case definition for illness. Fifty-seven percent of case-patients in the cohort study were categorized as food employees (i.e. reporting handling food, serving food, or changing ice buckets), and 54% of non-ill hotel staff in the cohort study were food employees. All cases (100%) reported eating or drinking at the Holiday Inn Bordeaux during the period of interest.

Furthermore, during the course of this investigation, it was revealed that seven food service employees, as defined by the North Carolina Food Code Manual, continued to work while ill.

Uh oh.

WRAL reports that Scooter Deal, the Holiday Inn Bordeaux’s manager says that’s not possible.

Deal said employees are required to notify managers if they are sick, and none did.“The restaurant would not allow an employee to continue working while ill, and the hotel has no knowledge or information to suggest that any employee continued to work while he or she was ill,” he said. “Most importantly, any potentially ill employees have not been determined to be the cause of the outbreak.”

Something’s stinky here. Management says no employees reported symptoms to them but seven of the same group of staff reported symptoms to investigators after the outbreak. Sort of shows that the policy isn’t worth much on its own. Creating an environment where staff understand the importance of not working while ill – and then actually following through – is how to run a food business.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.