Food Handlers

Food Handlers

The term Food Handler refers to those people who directly touch open food as part of their work, this includes employed and agency staff. However it also includes anyone who may touch food contact surfaces or other surfaces in rooms where open food is handled.

New starters

All new employees must undertake a Health Assessment Questionnaire; this process is managed by the Departmental Recruiter. Recruiters should select Food Handling under ‘Applicant Activities’ if the individual will work directly touching open food and or food contact surfaces.

Once Food Handling is selected as part of the individual’s activities a further set of health questions will be sent to the individual to complete. The individual’s response will be assessed by an Occupational Health clinician and a ‘fitness’ certificate issued confirming their fitness to work directly touching open food and touching food contact surfaces or other surfaces in rooms where open food is handled.

Current staff - sickness

Employed staff who directly touch open food as part of their work and/or touch food contact surfaces or other surfaces in rooms where open food is handled, must follow the below guidance:

Infections

Staff experiencing any of the following symptoms must inform their Line Manager:

  •  Diarrhoea
  •  Vomiting
  •  Stomach cramps or pain
  •  Nausea
  •  Fever

Once the member of staff notifies their Line Manager that they are experiencing any of the above symptoms, the Line Manager should exclude the members of staff from food handling duties and food handling area immediately. The member of staff should not return until they have been symptom free for a minimum of 48 hrs.

Managers may also wish to undertake a return to work interview to assure themselves that that the member of staff has received all relevant information and further action is not required such as a referral to Occupational Health.

If a member of staff has been diagnosed by a medical professional (e.g. doctor) with a specific infection such as Salmonella, E. coli, Norovirus, they will be required to inform their Line Manager and the Line Manager should exclude the member of staff from food handling duties and food handling area immediately. The Line Manager should make a referral to Occupational Health and the member of staff should not undertake food handling duties and enter food handling area until they have been cleared to return to work by a medical professional.

Returning from overseas

There are many diseases and infections that are widespread in other countries that are not common in the UK. Managers and food handlers should be aware of these facts and anyone falling ill after returning from a visit abroad should seek medical advice quickly.

Medical advice can be obtained by contacting the team of Doctors via the dedicated Health Management Ltd telephone line: 0845 872 9713 or 0845 894 1664.

Infected or injured skin

Damaged skin or sores caused by injury or disease e.g. boils and septic cuts can become infected with bacteria which can cause food poisoning. Symptoms of infection include:

  • Scaling
  • Weeping
  • Discharge from lesions

It is usually acceptable for Food Handlers to continue working with food as long as the infected area is completely covered e.g. using a distinctively coloured waterproof dressing. Food Handlers with a lesion that cannot be covered e.g eyes, ears, mouths and gums should be excluded from any work likely to lead to the contamination of food.

Exclusions may not be needed

Infections are not the only cause of diarrhoea and vomiting and exclusion is not required where there is good evidence of non-infective cause such as:

  • Morning sickness – during pregnancy
  • Some medicines and medical treatments
  • Inflation of the bowel including diverticulitis, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Cancer of the bowel
  • Malabsorption syndromes (e.g. coeliac disease and cystic fibrosis)
  • Dietary indiscretion (e.g. consuming too much alcohol or spicy food)

Further guidance to help managers and staff prevent the spread of infection can be found via the Food Handlers: Fitness to Work document available from the Downloads box.