Risk-based decision making is the mantra in food safety. Picking out an intervention is a starts with a numbers game: calculating the prevalence of an action (like handwashing) and matching that with the likelihood of a pathogen in the system. This is the stuff that gets the math nerds like Schaffner excited (me too).
One that’s been debated in food service for over twenty years is whether or not employers or public health folks should require food handlers to be vaccinated for hepatitis A. Authors of a 2000 Journal of Food Protection arrived at the conclusion that the public health benefit of vaccinating for hep A doesn’t equal the costs – but doesn’t factor in all the bad publicity, hassle and incident management costs.
A Charlotte restaurant owner who dealt with a hep A exposure event says the cost to his business was more than the shots, and is suggesting that all food handlers should be vaccinated.
Charlotte restaurant owner is going on the offensive battling perception and health concern over Hepatitis A.
“The restaurant industry is thriving,” said Jon Dressler, owner of three Charlotte-area restaurants.
Last month, however, he received a call no one wants to get.
“We were contacted by the Mecklenburg Health Department that one of our employees had contacted Hep A while on vacation,” said Dressler. “It’s not a cleanliness issue, it’s not an internal issue. The health department didn’t have to shut us down.”
Rather than being upset, Dressler has another idea.
“It would be wonderful if all of Mecklenburg County restaurant workers were required to have the Hep vaccination,” said Dressler.
The National Restaurant Association reports there are 426,000 restaurant workers in North Carolina. The two-set vaccination is about $150 a person. Meaning, it would cost close to $64 million to vaccinate all restaurant workers in the state. No one from the state or Mecklenburg County health departments wanted to comment on camera about the need for the vaccine. However, the CDC did put out a report.
“Slowly, but surely, all of my employees are being vaccinated,” said Dressler.
The restaurant owner isn’t taking chances, making all of his employees get the vaccine. He admits it’s expensive, but it’s a cost he’s willing to take.
“You weigh the expense of the vaccination versus the expense of any lost business you might incur,” said Dressler.