The Influenza virus is responsible for a substantial amount of sick time and lost productivity for businesses in the mobile food industry every year. Although there is no way to guarantee your commercial kitchen or food truck is completely free of the virus, there are some things that can be done to minimize its impact on your or food truck customers or staff.
How long does influenza virus remain active on objects and common surfaces?
Influenza virus is capable of surviving on most common surfaces and everyday objects for anywhere from 2 to 8 hours. If someone infected with the flu has been in contact with any surface in the workplace, the virus can easily spread to others throughout the work day, long after they have ended their shift or walked away from your service window.
Which areas or surfaces are most commonly affected?
There are several surfaces which will have a very high concentration of bacteria and viruses, influenza being no exception. Among these, the most notable are doorknobs and handles, food prep surfaces, clothing, kitchen tools and equipment, any public dispensing devices (i.e. napkins or condiments). When a person carrying influenza coughs or sneezes, the virus is carried in tiny droplets, some almost microscopic. These droplets are deposited on any nearby surfaces or objects, and when another person touches these surfaces or objects they will likely become infected as well, especially if they touch their nose, mouth, or eyes before washing their hands after coming in contact with the infected surface.
What can be done to minimize the presence of influenza virus in my food truck?
Use these practical measures to protect your customers and employees during the 2012-2013 flu season:
Encourage workers to get vaccinated. Ensure employees know where they (and their families) can get seasonal flu vaccinations in the community. Getting employees vaccinated against the flu can lower direct and indirect employer costs, research shows. Healthy, immunized working adults experience significantly fewer days of flu-like illnesses, have fewer doctor visits and take fewer days off from work.
Consider offering opportunities to get vaccinated against the flu onsite. Workplace vaccination efforts save costs for employers. Employers can offer onsite seasonal flu vaccination to workers at no or low cost to their employees. If you do not have an onsite occupational health clinic, pharmacies and community vaccinators can be contracted to provide seasonal flu vaccination services onsite.
Encourage employees to practice good hygiene. Employers should remind workers of the importance of hand washing and covering your mouth if you cough or sneeze. They should encourage employees to regularly clean shared equipment and wipe down common areas. Post friendly reminders around the workplace, and provide hand sanitizer wipes or gel for customers outside of your truck.
Encourage sick employees to stay at home. Sick employees may think they’re being dedicated workers when they still come in to work, but the truth is they spread germs to other employees and cut down on the overall productivity of the business.
Proper waste handling is an excellent area to start. Tissues and any other disposable items used by infected persons should be immediately deposited in the trash. Persons carrying influenza should also take great care not to sneeze or cough openly, as this can result in a much more rapid spread of the virus in and from your truck. Surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected regularly with an appropriate solution capable of killing the virus, such as chlorine, detergents, iodine-based antiseptics, or alcohols (be sure they do not contaminate your food products).
A daily (or even between shift) cleaning regimen, coupled with responsible food truck staff members, will help ensure that exposure to influenza virus in and from your food truck is kept to a minimum.
Do you have any suggestions we may have missed that you use on your food truck? Feel free to share them in the comment section below.