Preventing ill food employees from spreading pathogens to food and food contact surfaces remains an important objective of retail food safety policy in the United States. Since 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended food establishments implement employee health policies that include requirements for the exclusion or restriction of ill food employees and reporting, to the person in charge, symptoms or diagnosis of certain diseases transmitted by food. However, the incorporation of this recommendation has not been widely studied. The purpose of this exploratory study was to assess the presence and prevalence of employee health policies at fast-food and full-service restaurants in the United States. More than 50% of fast-food and full-service restaurants were found to have nonexistent employee health policies for each of the five recommended components specified in the FDA Food Code. Results showed 17.41% of fast-food restaurants and 12.88% of full-service restaurants had all five recommended components. Moreover, most restaurants with all five recommended employee health policy components were part of a multiple-unit operation and were found to have more developed food safety management systems than restaurants with none of the recommended components. Further attention and research into the impediments associated with developing and implementing employee health policies in restaurants is warranted.

  • Most restaurants were found to have no employee health policy.

  • A policy informing employees to report illness symptoms was the most widely present.

  • Restaurants with all five policy components had more developed FSMS.

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