July 7, 2020

North Park Deli in California Reopens After Closure for Norovirus

Contra Costa County environmental health officials in California closed the North Park Deli in Concord last week for norovirus. Two employees tested positive for the virus. Public health officials started investigating the restaurants after 48 people who ate food at an event catered by the deli became ill. The restaurant reopened February 1, 2013 after a thorough cleaning.

NorovirusAccording to KTVU.com, the county’s environmental health department director Marilyn Underwood said the catered event was held at a local biotech company. Those who were sickened “ate common food, at a common place so we came to the North Park deli and talked with the employees there, suspecting one of them had come to work sick. We found that one had come to work sick to their stomach and had worked that day,” she said.

Attorney Fred Pritzker, who has represented people sickened by norovirus, said, “it’s the restaurant’s responsibility to make sure their workers are not going to sicken customers. Norovirus is extremely contagious and the disease can have serious complications for some patients.”

A survey conducted by the Food Chain Workers Alliance found that half of all employees in the food industry work while sick because they can’t afford to take time off. Also, most of those employees do not have health care coverage so they most likely don’t see a doctor when they get sick. Restaurant owners are responsible for making sure their employees aren’t making customers sick.

In California, the California Food Code states that if two or more people are sick with acute gastrointestinal illnesses at the restaurant, the Person in Charge must report to the state. In addition, the Person in Charge, who is required to be at the facility during all hours of operation, must “exclude a food employee from the food facility if diagnosed with Norovirus, along with other diseases such as Salmonella, Hepatitis A, STEC bacteria, and Shigella. A public health official must clear the employee before they can return to work.

Regulations vary by state, but the FDA has published the Employee Health and Personal Hygiene Handbook that outlines steps restaurant employees and managers should take when an employee is ill.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that about 50% of all outbreaks of food-related illness are caused by norovirus. In many of these outbreaks, sick food handlers spread the virus to others.


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