Food handlers: fitness to work

Guidance to help managers and staff prevent the spread of infection by advising which illnesses and symptoms staff should report and what managers should do in response.

People who work around open food while suffering from certain infections (mainly from bacteria and viruses) can contaminate the food or surfaces the food may come into contact with. This can spread infection to other people through the food.

About this guidance

Applies in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland

This information is for:

  • importers
  • manufacturers and processors
  • retailers, caterers and carers

Legal status:

This guidance is intended to:

  • accompany legislation
  • describe best practice

Summary of guidance

The full guidance can be found at the link below.

A summary of the guidance:

  • Diarrhoea and/or vomiting are the main symptoms of illnesses that can be transmitted through food.
  • Staff handling food or working in a food handling area must report these symptoms to management immediately.
  • Managers must exclude staff with these symptoms from working with or around open food, normally for 48 hours from when symptoms stop naturally.

Different action is required in some cases, as explained in section 9 of the guidance.

In addition, all staff who handle food and who work around open food must always:

  • Wash and dry their hands before handling food, or surfaces likely to come into contact with food, especially after going to the toilet.

This is because it is possible to be infected but not have symptoms.