Flu and making sure your business is prepared

Product, employee and customer health should be first priority. Food business owners must be well prepared for sick employees.

Flu season in the United States typically runs between October and May, with a normal peak in February. With the potential for employees getting the flu, it is important for business owners to flu season seriously.

In terms of a food business, policy around employee health should be part of the Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Control of employee health conditions is an important factor in preventing the spread of pathogens to food and food-contact surfaces. Therefore, it is important to plan for flu season from both the food safety perspective and from a business perspective. Your food business might consider the following steps during the flu season:

  • Employees should report to work in good health
  • If employees are not in good health, they should be sent home
  • Company policy on attendance when sick should be well communicated
  • Prepare for unexpected absences
  • Practice good sanitation
  • Encourage good personal health practices, including receiving flu shots
  • Follow local health department guidelines and special bulletins

If these practices are followed, the risk to the public will be mitigated. Businesses that follow good sanitation practices are never immune from problems, but with good practices and good records the risk to businesses on matters of liability can be minimized.

The Sanitation SOP should specifically address how to handle employees who come to work in less than good health. In addition to describing the steps to be taken, a business should verify that the SOP is being followed. Supervisors should note as part of their normal checklists any employee health conditions and if and when corrective actions are taken.

Michigan State University Extension educators and innovation counselors at the MSU Product Center—Food-Ag-Bio are ready to assist food processors in the development of the products. MSU Product Center counselors can also assist in the development of SOPs and a monitoring system. The MSU Product Center provides food safety testing and assistance to help Michigan entrepreneurs develop and commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive products and businesses in the value-added agriculture, food, and natural resources sectors. For more information, visit www.productcenter.msu.edu or call 517-432-8750.

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