For the past few months we’ve had staff members infected in a food handler flu-like virus.
we’ve had our first-ever student health study report , and have begun experimenting with microbial testing at our campuses.
This past Thursday, as part of ongoing efforts to prevent food-borne illness at our dining halls and attractions, Philadelphia Public Health officials announced that they will require health proof for all indoor dining establishments from 1 January to March 2021.
The decision was in response to the outbreak of norovirus that began at New York City’s Penn Station last summer. This summer, Philadelphia Public Health alerted our staff that it would be developing a test and working toward implementation.
We have worked closely with Philadelphia Public Health’s director over the past few months to finalize the final regulations. We’ve also discussed the effectiveness of a similar requirement in other health departments across the country, including those in Canada.
From our first public health study at Temple University , to the recent food-borne illness at Philadelphia’s Gallery Row, we’ve been clear that food bacteria thrives among workers who handle restaurant, hospital and childcare meals.
Even one individual shedding a germ, or two, can potentially create a chain reaction that allows a virus to thrive. While we don’t have data to support the potential effectiveness of applying data to outbreaks like ours, we have learned that the fight against foodborne illness shouldn’t be individualized.
There are some specific locations that are particularly susceptible to illness, and other food venues where new standards would not be applied, such as fast food joints, school cafeterias and birthday parties. But based on our experience, we can say that the majority of places do not support the current level of testing.
These infections have been a reminder of the necessity to make sure we make the right decisions for Philadelphia’s health. Public health officials are also working to improve infection prevention practices across the city’s food and restaurant industries by increasing the number of food inspectors, establishing a shared data platform to improve monitoring, and implementing new education and infection prevention programs at universities.
In the end, Philadelphia is doing what is necessary to protect the public health. By developing the strongest possible public health laws, Philadelphia is demonstrating its commitment to make sure that all Philly food establishments, who serve everyone, can operate safely and ethically.
Dr. Ismael Enriquez is a US Food and Drug Administration scientist, and Temple University’s associate dean for preventive medicine and epidemiology.
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