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Why is Hepatitis A Vaccines Mandatory for Food Handlers in Parts of U.S.?

8 Aug 2019 18:00:00 Marshie

Why is Hepatitis A Vaccines Mandatory for Food Handlers in Parts of U.S.?


It is no surprise since the nation has been battling a deadly epidemic of hepatitis A from Missouri to Florida some jurisdictions are enforcing all food service establishments to vaccinate their employees. 

Franklin County, MO has joined the cities and counties requiring Hepatitis A vaccines for restaurant workers. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious disease that attacks the liver which takes approximately six months for someone to recover. Also keep in mind they may be showing no signs and still be spreading the virus. 


The ordinance requires vaccines for all restaurant workers and anyone involved in food preparation. It covers hospital cafeterias, school kitchens, daycare facilities, nursing homes, catering businesses, and mobile food outlets.

Restaurant workers found on the job while infected with hepatitis A can be very costly even to the point of having to shut down. Restaurants are also responsible for the patrons who ate at their facilitates and were exposed to the threat and have to undergo the vaccination shots.  Customers who must go through the time and expense of getting a vaccination often bring class-action lawsuits to recoup their time and expense costs.

The NRA, National Restaurant Association, states that there are more than 15 million people employed by the restaurant industry. Majority of restaurants hire 50 or less people.  Now let us do a little math.  Each vaccination shot of hepatitis A costs roughly $100 and the vaccination requires two doses six months apart. Therefore each restaurant with 50 employees would be paying $10,000 for vaccination shots.  However, with the turnover rate in the industry that number could easily be double.


Now if that isn’t enough for you the restaurant owner to take notice you also have the requirement by federal law, OSHA standards to offer and have available hepatitis B vaccinations who must respond to medical emergencies.

We learn in our food safety classes we can’t kill a virus.  We are taught we can only control the virus by washing our hands and having good personal hygiene.  According to Hepb.org, hepatitis A and B both impact the liver however the two viruses differ greatly from one another. Hepatitis B is a blood-borne pathogen; its primary mode of transmission is through direct blood-to-blood contact with an infected person. In contrast, hepatitis A can be spread by fecal-oral transmission or by consuming food or water that has been contaminated. Hepatitis A can be spread through food that is prepared by an infected person.


According to Mayo Clinic, You can take steps to reduce the risk of passing hepatitis A to others.

  • Avoid sexual activity. Avoid all sexual activity if you have hepatitis A. Many kinds of sexual activity can spread the infection to your partner. Condoms don't offer adequate protection.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet and changing diapers. Scrub vigorously for at least 20 seconds and rinse well. Dry your hands with a disposable towel.
  • Don't prepare food for others while you're actively infected. You can easily pass the infection to others.

As I teach in my Food Safety Classes and OSHA classes, “The things you can’t not see are the things which can kill you.” Hepatitis A is causing havoc in certain parts of our nation in epidemic proportions.  It can and is spreading quickly like a wildfire because it is highly contagious. Please go over with your staff the importance of washing their hands correctly. I know it is expensive to vaccinate your staff for hepatitis A. Let me leave you with this question, can you afford not to vaccinate your staff?




By Marshie Morgan, Author, Trainer, Speaker 

Owner of M&M Business Solutions

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