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Hand Washing Can Prevent the Next Chipotle Headline

Employees not washing their hands and handing food are among the highest concerns related to food safety for any convenience retail operations.
July 24, 2017

​ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A foodborne illness can devastate a brand. For example, look no further than Chipotle, the fast-casual chain that’s having a heck of a time coming out from the ashes of its food safety missteps.

Last week, the chain shut down a Sterling, Virginia, restaurant after receiving multiple reports of customers getting sick after eating at that location. The chain's head of food safety, Jim Marsden, said in a statement to NBC News that the symptoms customers reported were consistent with norovirus, a highly contagious virus. According to the CDC, norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States, and most of these outbreaks occur in foodservice settings. Infected food workers are frequently the source of the outbreaks.

There is certainly more than one source of a foodborne illness, whether originating in the supply chain or food handling inside the store, but one of the easiest ways to ward against an outbreak is proper handwashing. Employees not washing their hands and handling food are among the highest concerns related to food safety for any convenience retail operation.

“The No. 1 reason people get foodborne illnesses is the [contaminated] hands of the employees,” said Dr. Nancy Caldarola in the July 2016 NACS Magazine cover story, “Keeping Food Safe.”

“Think about how many times people make a sandwich and don’t wash their hands. People don’t wash their hands after they go to the restroom,” Caldarola continued. “They handle things they shouldn’t and then handle food. They smoke and don’t wash their hands. This is how you pass along E. coli and most viruses. This is how people become ill.”

Education Is Key
NACS members cite food safety as a top concern that keeps them up at night. To help mitigate the next “Chipotle scare” in your operation, NACS offers the following:

NACS partners with Ready Training Online (RTO) to offer members a robust and flexible suite of online learning options for the convenience and fuel retailing industry. E-learning modules specific to foodservice include the donut case, roller grills, food safety and sanitation, and cleaning the beverage fountain. View more at convenience.org/elearning. RTO also offers SURE™ Certified Food Safety Training for Managers.

NACS also offers a 10-course, online training series that can earn a Certified Convenience Foodservice Management (CCFM) designation for the student. Topics range from foodservice system basics and human resources to equipment cleaning, merchandising and more. Details are at convenience.org/certifiedfoodservice.

On August 7, the NACS Convenience Matters podcast, “Protect Your Food Brand,” will feature insights on food safety from Kwik Trip’s Food Science and Safety Department.