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The New Legal Look at Handwashing

“ quality controls … to safeguard consumer and employee health.”


2016 is starting out as a potential watershed for foodservice, nursing home and hospital handwashing. Two high profile Norovirus outbreaks at Chipotle restaurants in 2015 were followed by two legal actions and a 35% drop in Chipotle’s stock price. Controlling Norovirus is highly dependent on good handwashing.

A Simi Valley California law suit was followed by a devastating New York District Court action raised by a concerned stockholder for failing to disclose that its “quality controls were inadequate to safeguard consumer and employee health.”

Handwashing continues to be framed by the CDC as the single-most important means of preventing the spread of infection, yet it continues as the least controlled public and patient safety intervention in restaurants and healthcare facilities. Foodservice and healthcare operations are evaluating newly available technologies to assist in achieving this suggested standard of adequate “to safeguard consumer and employee health.”

Foodservice and healthcare brands depend on images of trustworthiness in delivering their services to away-from-home guests. Operational profitability and business continuity are built on a consistent image but vulnerable to something as simple as inconsistent handwashing. 

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