The owners of the McDonald’s franchise in Bloomington, Ill. that has been linked to a Salmonella outbreak are paying for lab testing on 60 employees and the wages of all employees scheduled to work while the restaurant remains closed during the investigation, a spokeswoman for the McLean County Health Department told Food Poisoning Bulletin.
During their investigation, health officials found no contamination on food or environmental surfaces, but were able to determine from interviews that the source of the outbreak could have come from an employee or employees who worked their shifts while they were sick, she said. Each employee had to submit two stool samples for testing, results of 120 tests should be available by the middle of next week. Testing is being performed by McDonald’s which will notify the state health department of any positive results, she said.
McDonald’s has a strict hand-washing policy, but during illness, good hand-washing isn’t always enough to prevent the spread of bacteria, says food safety attorney Brendan Flaherty, of PritzkerOlsen in Minneapolis. “Hand washing is extremely important but does not guarantee that a sick worker will not spread the disease. Washing one’s hands does not prevent a sneeze, for example. Moreover, because a sick worker can transmit the bacteria in an infinite number of ways, merely washing hands will not necessarily prevent an outbreak. This is why most states prohibit food handlers from working while ill.”
This wouldn’t be the first example of a foodborne illness outbreak linked to an ill employee. Contamination from sick food or restaurant workers is common, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Earlier this year, sick employees at an Indiana Subway franchise were the source of a Norovirus outbreak that sickened almost 100 people.