Kitchen staff and food companies lack knowledge about norovirus, according to a Danish report.

A Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) campaign checked whether food companies and the staff who work in different types of kitchens know and are following the procedures to avoid infection with norovirus.

The agency visited more than 1,000 firms and found 39 violations, mostly to do with activity or storage in the bathroom and handwashing. Although the number of sanctions was low, many kitchen staff did not know enough about how foodborne viruses such as norovirus are transmitted and how to avoid passing the infection on to customers and colleagues.

The target group of the control was companies that produce ready-to-eat food such as catering businesses and restaurants plus specialty stores such as bakers and butchers. Every year, 15 to 20 norovirus outbreaks are linked to kitchen employees or contaminated raw materials.

Company measures and staff knowledge
“Good workflows and good kitchen hygiene are crucial for a kitchen not to make its customers sick from, among other things, norovirus. We can advise and instruct, but the heavy burden must be borne by the companies themselves,” said Annette Perge, from Fødevarestyrelsen.

In late 2021, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration run a campaign aimed at kitchen employees with one of the main points telling them to stay away from work for at least 48 hours after symptoms of norovirus have passed. Information efforts for kitchen staff and companies will begin again in the autumn, before the main season for norovirus starts.

The latest campaign showed companies’ preventive measures were not sufficient to prevent foodborne virus outbreaks. It found there was room for improvement in terms of employee knowledge of norovirus and companies’ instructions as well as training of staff on personal hygiene and its importance for food safety.

Almost 1 in 4 companies did not have procedures for employees to stay at home for the recommended 48 hours after symptoms ended. More than a third of firms held regular training courses.

A survey found 15 percent of kitchen staff did not know the routes of infection and disease progression of norovirus. A third were unaware of the risk of infection from staff or sick family members.

Comparing results with a past norovirus campaign in 2016 showed there were several areas where the previous control and guidance had not had a lasting impact.

More companies had implemented the recommendation that workers should stay home for 48 hours after symptoms ended but staff knowledge about norovirus was lower.

Supplement warning
Meanwhile, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration has also warned about a range of food supplements sold online.

The agency said more than 50 potentially dangerous supplements with 1,3 Dimethylamylamine (DMAA), Ashwagandha, Tribulus terrestris and Huperzine A were sold at but did not reveal any related illnesses.

The company sells a dietary supplement called Angel Dust, which contains the chemical substance DMAA that can cause heart attacks. It also sells 27 supplements with the plant ingredient Withania somnifera, also known by the name Ashwagandha, and 26 containing Tribulus terrestris, which can damage the liver.

The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration asked consumers who had bought dietary supplements on the website to discard them if they contain such substances and ingredients. It also advised people to check whether a product has been notified as a dietary supplement in Denmark and is subject to the administration’s checks.

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