Require restaurants to post their food safety precautions beyond COVID-19

Require restaurants to post their food safety precautions beyond COVID-19

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Madeline Vagim started this petition to Food and Drug Administration and

Every year in the United States roughly 48 million people contract foodborne illnesses. That’s 1 in 6 Americans. They range in severity from the common, but really unpleasant, stomach flu to infections caused by E. Coli, Listeria, and Salmonella that could lead to hospitalization and death. The FDA has plenty of information resources readily available for how the public can keep the food they cook in their own homes safe but there’s hardly any resources regarding how to maintain food safety while out at restaurants when you’re not in the kitchen.

From 2015 to 2018, the incredibly popular food chain Chipotle made more than 1,100 people sick at 5 different locations across the country. Around 400 of these cases were caused by norovirus spreading from employees working while sick and subsequently vomiting at the restaurant.  The other 700 were infected with Clostridium perfringens, which is a bacterium that grows when food is kept out at room temperature for over two hours. The incredibly successful restaurant chain paid a one-time $25 million fine for violating food regulations and neglecting to keep customers safe but those who got sick were the ones to pay the greater price.

We’ve all gotten food poisoning at one point or another and we know that it’s incredibly irritating but for the most part survivable. However, this is not the case for many. Those who are older, pregnant, or have health conditions are not only more likely to get food poisoning but are also more likely to become hospitalized and die from foodborne illness infections. These people take a greater risk when going out to eat at restaurants, especially when they have no proof that the food service staff is taking every precaution to ensure their safety.

Recently, restaurants have started posting how they’re taking precautions to keep their customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why can’t they do the same to show their customers how they’re maintaining food safety behind the scenes. It’s no longer enough to wait for the health department or the FDA to step in and fine the restaurant after enough customers get sick. Restaurants need to start being as accountable to their customers as they are required to be to the health department. They need to do more than just the vague letter grade that they are required to post somewhere in the facility. Too many people rely on restaurant workers to not get them sick and don’t even inquire beyond that implicit trust to ensure the food they are eating is safe. Restaurant leadership should be required to post a “Food Safety Precautions” flyer right alongside the already existing “COVID-19 Safety Precautions” flyer to show their customers that they take their health seriously. This flyer should include information that meat is being cooked to proper temperatures and that once cooked, food is stored at proper temperatures. Most importantly, this posting should assure the customer that the restaurant is not forcing or pressuring sick staff to come in to work, especially when they are handling food. The liability limiting statement at the bottom of menus that says the restaurant is not responsible if the customer eats undercooked food is no longer enough. Many of these foodborne illnesses are preventable and restaurants should be doing their part to maintain food safety regulations and stay accountable to their customers.

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