Food Handlers Fitness for Work
Food which is contaminated by harmful micro-organisms can cause illness. Food can be contaminated by food handlers who are suffering from certain infections, or are carrying the micro-organisms in or on their bodies without showing symptoms of an infection.
The food industry has minimum standards of hygiene and food safety which must be implemented consistently to minimise the risk of food becoming microbiologically contaminated by food handlers.
Food Handlers include:
- Those employed directly in the production and preparation of foodstuffs including the manufacturing, catering and retail industries;
- Those undertaking maintenance work or repairing equipment in food handling areas, whether resident staff or workers on a contract; and
- Enforcement officers and visitors to food handling areas.
Those who handle onlu pre-wrapped, canned or bottled food, or those involved in primary agricultural or harvesting processes are not considered as food handlers.
Good Hygiene Practice for People Working in Areas Where Food is Handled
- wash and dry your hands:
- before and after handling food; and
- after going to the toilet
- report any illness to management
- do not work if you are suffering from diarrhoea and/or vomiting
- do not handle food if you have scaly or infected lesions on your skin which cannot be totally covered during food handling
- ensure cuts and abrasions on exposed areas are totally covered with a distinctively coloured waterproof dressing
- do not spit in food handling areas
- do not smoke in food handling areas
- do not eat or chew gum in food handling areas
- wear clean protective clothing, including adequate hair covering
- ensure work surfaces and utensils are clean.
Who should be medically assessed?
Eurpoean Community Food Hygiene Directives require employers to ensure their staff do not contaminate the product that they handle.
Employees or applicants who are food handlers should complete a questionnaire which asks:
- have you now or have you over the last 7 days, suffered from diarrhoea and/or vomiting?
- At present, are you suffering from:
- Skin trouble affecting the hands, arms or face?
- Boils, styes or septic fingers?
- Discharge from eye, ear or gums/mouth?
- Do you suffer from:
- Recurring skin or ear trouble?
- A recurring bowel disorder?
- Have you ever had, or are you now known to be a carrier or typhoid, paratyphoid?
- In the last 21 days have you been in contact with anyone, at home or abroad, who may have been suffering from typhoid or paratyphoid?
If the answer to any of the questions above is YES an individual requires a medical assessment.
Is it a legal requirement?
Medical Certification is required under EU Directive, however this may be done by competent personnel under ‘National Rules’ where the answer is ‘NO’ to all the questions above.
Further investigation by a suitably trained health care professional is required if an employee or applicant answer ‘YES’ to any of the questions above.
What does medical assessment entail?
Level 1 – a questionnaire is completed by the food handler and assessed by a competent person
Level 2 – an interview with an Occupational Health Advisor takes place and where clinically indicated, stool samples may be requested.
How long does it take?
Level 1 – takes 15 minutes to complete the questionnaire, the information to be assessed and a fitness for work certificate to be completed
Level 2 – 30 minutes is allowed for the Occupational Health Advisor interview.
How often should surveillance be done?
- At pre-employment;
- Following sickness absence
- Following travel to countries where there is a risk of infection from poor hygiene standards
- If the food handler reports that a member of their household or close contact is unwell with diarrhoea and/or vomiting lasting more than 48 hours
What happens if abnormalities are detected?
Food handlers should not be allowed to work in food handling areas when they have not been cleared fit for work, or if they are suffering from or carrying any of infections.
Employees not fit for food handling may be considered for redeployment into a non-food handling area on a temporary basis until they are fit to return to their normal duties.
What medical conditions will exclude me from working in food handling areas?
- Diarrhoea and vomiting symptoms (see information on gastrointestinal infections, infestations and intoxicants)
- Skin problems which affect the hands, arms or face
- Boils, styes or septic fingers
- Recurring ear eye, mouth or gum infections
- Carriers and sufferers of typhoid and paratyphoid
- Nail biters and skin chewers may also be excluded from food handling depending on the company policy.
Want to find out more?
For more information about our food handling health services, contact us