Factors Linked with Food Workers Working When Sick

EHS-Net Recommends

Food safety programs should stress that food workers should not work when they are sick. Programs need to know and address what factors affect workers’ decisions to work when sick before they can lower the number of workers who work when sick. For example, restaurant practices that ensure adequate staffing if a worker is sick could reduce the number of workers who work when they are sick.

Photo of a cook preparing a plate of food.

Why This Study Was Done

Sick food workers have been linked with past foodborne illness outbreaks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that food workers not work when sick with symptoms of foodborne illness. Such symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea.

We don’t know how often food workers follow the FDA advice. If we learn more about which food workers are likely to work when they are sick, we can make recommendations to stop them from working when sick. Lowering the number of workers who work when they are sick can reduce the number of foodborne illness outbreaks.

What the Study Described

This study described traits of food workers who have worked when sick with vomiting or diarrhea.

What the Study Found

Some groups of food workers were more likely than others to say they had worked a shift in the past year when sick with vomiting or diarrhea:

Table describes the difference between men working sick and women working sick.
What Is EHS-Net?

This study was conducted by the Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net). EHS-Net is a federally funded collaboration of federal, state, and local environmental health specialists and epidemiologists working to better understand the environmental causes of foodborne illness.

Want More Information?

Food Worker Experiences With and Beliefs about Working While Illpdf icon (scientific article this plain language summary is based on)

Factors Linked with Food Workers Working When Sickpdf icon (fact sheet version of this page)

Food Workers’ Reasons for Working When Sick (plain language summary of another sick worker article)

Food Workers Working When They Are Sick (plain language summary of another sick worker article)

Manager Practices about Workers Working When They Are Sick (plain language summary of another sick worker article)

Ill Food Worker Study (study information)

More EHS-Net publications by Study Topic

More Food Safety Study Findings in Plain Language

Page last reviewed: June 14, 2019