FDA US Food Code – Vomit and Diarrhea Spills

Foodborne illnesses like norovirus and salmonella are a growing food safety concern because they are highly contagious and spread quickly. They commonly cause episodes of acute vomiting and diarrhea which often occur in public settings like restaurants and retail food stores. Moreover, individuals infected with foodborne illnesses like norovirus can easily contaminate surfaces such as countertops and doorknobs simply by touching them. These contaminated surfaces can in turn cause future infections.

The FDA addressed this issue directly by including guidance for the proper response to vomit and diarrheal events in the 2009 and 2013 versions of the US Food Code. Food Establishments are required to have procedures for employees to follow when responding to events that involve the discharge of vomit and diarrhea onto surfaces in the Food Establishment. The statutes also require that these written procedures address the specific actions employees must take to minimize (1) the spread of contamination and (2) the exposure to employees, consumers, food and surfaces. The FDA US Food Code is not authoritative. Most state and local health departments however have adopted these rules as a part of their respective food codes. As of December 2016, the FDA reported that 37 states had adopted either the 2009 or 2013 versions of the US Food Code. Failure to comply with these rules, when adopted by state and local health departments, can result in penalties, store closures, license suspensions and increase the risk of food litigation.

In practice, the response to the requirements for “written procedures” and “specific actions” is the use of fully stocked, compliant body fluid spill kits for properly trained employees. Ideal spill kits, like the ones offered by OSHAKits.com, contain a complete set of protective equipment for employees, an EPA-registered disinfectant rated to kill foodborne illnesses like norovirus and salmonella, an absorbent material to solidify the biohazard spill and a set of disposal supplies including scrappers, absorbent towels and trash bags. A properly stocked spill kit should contain clear step-by-step instructions for employees to follow. All supplies and materials in each single-use spill kit should be thrown away after use so that no components are saved and introduce cross contamination risk.

2013 FDA US Food Code

Adoption of the FDA Food Code by State