NDSC publishes major guidelines to combat foodborne disease

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The National Disease Surveillance Centre today (Thursday) published major guidelines aimed at strengthening procedures to combat foodborne disease and to provide expert advice on best practice in relation to food safety.

Commenting on the 96 page report - Preventing Foodborne Disease: A Focus on the Infected Food Handler - the chairperson of the NDSC Food Handler subcommittee, Dr Margaret O'Sullivan said that the guidelines presented another significant layer of protection between the public and the potential threat of outbreaks of foodborne disease.

"It can be difficult to assess the risk posed by food handlers infected with potentially foodborne infectious diseases as they are often the victims of, rather than the source of, an outbreak.  Nevertheless, food handlers infected with certain pathogens who in some instances may not even be symptomatic - can and do pose a risk to food safety. Ongoing and rigorous emphasis must be placed on the importance of hand washing and reporting of illness by food handlers.

"All food business operators are responsible for managing food safety risks in order to protect consumers. These guidelines will provide advice and information for food business operators and for food safety professionals working in the field. Issues such as food handler health screening, assessment of fitness to work and the application of work exclusion criteria are comprehensively covered.

"There are many places along the food chain where infectious hazards can occur. The points at which food is handled and prepared are critically important. This guidance aims to reduce further the risk of introducing disease by food handlers during food handling and preparation," she said.