Restaurants taking steps to battle flu, H1N1

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The H1N1 alerts are also out for the people that handle your food. Smith County alone has more than 1,100 restaurants. We went behind the counter to see what's being done to keep the flu off your food.

Lather...rinse...repeat...and sanitize.

"Did you wash you wash your hands?" I asked two-year-old, Zoe Candyfire.

"Uh huh," she replied.

It's reported more than 7 million people head out to work inside of restaurants, bars and cafeterias across the country everyday, and Americans alone consume more than 1 billion commercially prepared meals every week. If enough get sick with the flu or the H1N1 virus could rise, like pizza dough.

"The plan is, [if] you got a sneeze and a're going home," said Bob Westbrook, with the Texas Restaurant Association and owner of Cici's Pizza in Tyler.

"Every 15-20 minutes, hit somebody on the back saying go wash your hands," said Westbrook. "Now it's every five minutes. We have flu shots scheduled for our entire staff."

Sanitizing stations are posted in the kitchen and the dining room.

"We're truly caretakers of public health and we can't go too far," said Westbrook.

"This is a new flavor because it's talking about a communicable disease that's person to person they may pass it through a work station, food work station, or they may give it to the public," explained Brenda Elrod, the Deputy Director of Environmental Health for the Northeast Texas Public Health District.

Elrod says, this season, inspectors' senses will be tingling.

"They want to be sure they're sanitizing the tables between customers...making sure they have soap and paper towels at their hand sinks," said Elrod. "These people do touch millions of people's lives so what they do is important...and how they do it is even more important."

The FDA says flu does not spread through food, but through contact with contaminated surfaces. Health officials say if you see food workers who look, or sound ill, report it to the manager and contact your local health department.

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