Disclosure in lieu of handwashing

Politicians, like the NFL and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills provide some entertainment sometimes. Today’s installment comes from NC Senator Thom Tillis who, in the name of over regulation, suggests that restaurants should be able to opt out of sanitation laws like handwashing. The action that, when done poorly the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “accounts for 89% of the outbreaks in which food was contaminated by food workers”.

Tillis says,

“I was having a discussion with someone, and we were at a Starbucks in my district, and we were talking about certain regulations where I felt like ‘maybe you should allow businesses to opt out,’” he said, “as long as they indicate through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employment literature, or whatever else.”

Or maybe a label (above, exactly as shown).

He goes on to say:

“I Don’t have any problem with Starbucks opting out as long as they post a sign that says ‘We don’t require our employees to wash their hands’ and post it. The market will take care of it.”

After a bunch of people get sick.

“It’s one example, let them decide, and they will probably go out of business… but that’s the sort of mentality we need to have.”

States set restaurant food safety laws, based on the federal FDA food code, and most jurisdictions have a process for variances to that code; there’s already a way for businesses to opt out if they feel overburdened by the law as long as the outcome is the same. And addressing the hazard with some sort of public disclosure needs to be shown with some data.

I’d like to see the data that shows public disclosure of opting out of handwashing has the same net public health effect of requiring the behavior and inspecting for it.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a 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.