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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Alabama McDonald’s Employee with Hepatitis A – Again

The Alabama Department of Health yesterday alerted customers of McDonald’s, located at 2000 McFarland Blvd, Northport that they may have been exposed to hepatitis A virus through an infected employee. If you visited this McDonald’s any time on March 14, 2012, or during breakfast hours on March 16, 2012, please contact your health care provider as soon as possible to receive an Ig shot or Hepatitis A vaccine.

HepAmcdonalds.jpgI have heard this story before.

In March of 1998, the Skagit County Health Department (SCHD) received a number of reports that residents had been diagnosed with hepatitis A and began an investigation into what appeared to be a hepatitis A outbreak.  During its investigation into the outbreak’s source, SCHD determined that the outbreak had occurred among patrons of the McDonald’s restaurant located on Riverside Drive in Mt. Vernon, Washington, who had eaten at the restaurant in mid-February, 1998.  Through its investigation, SCHD learned that an assistant manager at the McDonald’s had worked while infected with hepatitis A and had contaminated food. 

In July and August of 2009, public health officials in the Quad-City region of Illinois identified at least 32 confirmed cases of hepatitis A among residents of Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, Warren, and Woodford Counties. People became ill after eating food purchased from the Milan McDonald’s restaurant and then developing a hepatitis A (HAV) infection, or after coming into contact with infected individuals and contracting a secondary infection.  The Rock Island County Public Health Department (RICPHD) identified at least eleven individuals who were hospitalized as a result of the severity of their hepatitis A symptoms.

Perhaps if McDonald’s provided vaccines to its employees, this would not be an issue?

  • Minkpuppy

    Remember Typhoid Mary? They actually had to imprison her to keep her from handling food. Hepatitis seems to be the modern equivalent.

    Do you know if McDonald’s has a mandatory reporting policy if an employee finds out he/ she has hepatitis? I know it ventures into the whole “patient right to privacy” thing, but if that patient is exposing others by handling food, then the employer needs to be able to move that employee to a different job or take appropriate protective measures if possible.

  • Paul F Schwarz

    Thart would be way too easy. common sense is not in play here. Vaccinations to employees would affect the bottom line! McDonalds is all about money first and food safety last. I think is the trend in the industry and has been all along!
    Section 51 Row 1 Grave 3 Ft Leavenworth/Leavenworth National Cemetery

  • Minkpuppy

    Believe it or not, McDonalds, Jack in the Box etc. have stricter food safety standards than FSIS when it comes to meat.
    I’ve had the opportunity to inspect plants that supply to McDonald’s and they fear the Micky D audit more than they fear me (the inspector).
    No matter how good their programs are or aren’t, the company can’t do much to prevent this sort of thing if their managers aren’t aware that they may have an employee or employees carrying Hep A.

  • Minkpuppy is correct, several companies see USDA standards and below their standards. Some do it out of pride of product, some do it because Mr. Marler has been so successful and don’t want to buy his next boat. There are two issues. First is requirement to provide paid sick leave for all employees in the food service industry. I have seen too many outbreaks that can be traced backed to a sick person picking, harvesting processing or serving food and the resulting cross contamination. The second, why Hepatitis A vaccine isn’t provided for food service employees to prevent the disease. In many developing countries where we get our produce in the winter time, hepatitis A is normal childhood disease causing mild diarrhea. The child quickly recovers and is immune for life. The disease causes serious problems in people over 16 who contract it.

  • Former Alabama Restaurant Employee

    Incidents like this are exactly why many other states require those employed by any establishment serving food and/or drinks to be approved for a food handler’s license!
    The standards (or, more accurately, lack of standards) regarding food service in Alabama are appalling. Most restaurant employees I have encountered here in Alabama know nothing at all of cross contamination, proper food storage, acceptable holding temperatures, proper cleaning practices or OSHA regulations. In fact, I’d say 9 out of 10 do not even wash their hands after using the restroom, let alone after smoking, eating, etc.
    I sincerely hope that this public health scare will convince the powers that be to modify the complete disregard for public safety and reprehensible behaviors taking place in eating establishments across the state.

  • Depending on the employees symptoms, it may have been obvious to others that he/she should not be working due to illness. So how many workers stay home when they are sick? Not enough, is generally the answer. Also the hepaititis A is shed in the stool and if there was not good hand hygiene being practiced it increases the risk of cross conatmination and spread. I know that McDs corpoate policy is to wash hands frequently throughout the shift which helps reduce chances of spread. If frequent routine surface cleaning through out the shift will help reduce potential cross contamination. The C. difficile bacterium in the hospital is a similar cross contamination issue with potentially devastating results. So we all need to be more “Hand Aware” and others around us should hold us more accountable, as well.

  • tamara

    McDonald’s policy might be that employees must wash their hands, but I’m a eyewitness to employees at a single McDonald’s not washing their hands. I’ve been in that McDonald’s only a few times, how likely is it that those were the only two instances of employees not washing their hands ? I suspect non-handwashing is rampant.
    I think McDonald’s and other restaurants should require the employees to wash their hands at a hand-washing station that is near the food area, not in the bathrooms. And they should be videotaped. This is ridiculous. But I blame parents for not forcing their kids to wash their hands, because I couldn’t even count how many times I’ve seen that …

  • joan morgan

    i agree totally with tamara … i had the same thought myself and she has expressed it perfectly. furthermore, if there can be videotaping of cash registers to catch thieving employees, there should definitely be videotaping of hand-washing (outside the restroom of course, just as tamara suggests) … who wants to go in for fries and end up in kidney failure, all because someone did not bother to wash his or her hands?