NOROVIRUS INFORMATION GUIDE
Noroviruses (previously known as Norwalklike viruses) are widely recognized as the agents known to cause outbreaks of illness among large numbers of people on cruise ships, however the importance of these viruses doesn’t stop there. Since the original norwalk virus was identified in 1972, there has been increasing recognition of noroviruses as agents of viral gastroenteritis traced to restaurants and catered meals, nursing homes, schools and camps. In 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that at least 50 percent of foodborne outbreaks in the United States were attributed to norovirus1 with 60 percent in restaurants and banquet facilities, 9 percent in private homes, 8 percent in the workplace, 4 percent in schools, and 2 percent in healthcare. Other common venues are camps, churches/temples, fairs, festivals, picnics, and in prisons/jails. 2 Norovirus is also a common cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in Europe3 and other countries.
PURPOSE OF THIS GUIDE
The retail food industry plays a significant role in assuring a safe food supply for consumers. At the retail level, activities to control food safety risks can be divided into four key areas: the supplier and source of foods and food ingredients; in-store practices and procedures; education and training of employees and food handlers; and consumer education. A total approach to food safety management must address each of these areas.
This guidance is intended to specifically address the area of in-store practices and procedures. This guidance was created to assist the retail food industry in preparing for and effectively handling the cleaning and disinfection of a potential norovirus incident directly associated with vomitus and/or fecal materials. It represents a collaborative effort and review by food safety professionals that includes industry, academia and state and federal regulatory professionals. It’s intended to be a ‘living’ document and one that will be revised as new information becomes available. For now, it provides insights and direction based on our most current and relevant knowledge and thinking.