Norovirus is the third biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK. The virus is highly contagious and only a few particles are needed to cause illness. Norovirus spreads easily in public places such as restaurants, cruise ships, hospitals, nursing homes and schools. Well documented major outbreaks in the UK include a chain of Mexican restaurants in London and a famous Michelin starred restaurant in Berkshire.
The virus can survive for several days outside the body and infection may occur when person comes into contact with a contaminated surface. Infection can also happen when a person is in close contact with someone infected with norovirus, as they can inhale small airborne particles containing the virus. The winter months are the peak season for infections. Symptoms usually occur within 1 to 2 days, and mainly include projectile vomiting with some diarrohea, abdominal pain, fever, nausea and dehydration. Re-infection is possible as the virus is constantly changing.
Foods that are not thoroughly cooked, eaten raw or contaminated after cooking are frequently implicated in outbreaks. Common foods include shellfish (mussels and oysters), salads and frozen fruit. The presence of norovirus in food can happen in a number of ways. Food could be contaminated by the food handler with one study suggesting infected food handlers are responsible for up to 50% of reported outbreaks. Shellfish, fresh produce and frozen foods could be contaminated with norovirus before it enters the premises. Oysters and other bivalve molluscs filter large amounts of water and contamination could occur due to filtration of water contaminated with norovirus. Fresh produce contamination could occur at various points in the food chain, such as polluted water used for irrigation or washing produce. Freezing does not kill the virus and contaminated frozen food can remain infectious for several years.
Food safety training can provide management and food handlers with the right knowledge to reduce the risk of a norovirus outbreak. Control measures include approved suppliers, exclusion of ill food handlers, correct handwashing techniques, minimising the handling of food and thorough cooking.
The characteristics of norovirus and appropriate control measures are covered on our food safety courses. We offer food safety training courses at our venues in Milton Keynes and London. Alternatively, we can deliver an onsite course at your premises anywhere in the UK, including Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Berkshire.