A Finland study confirms what may seem like common sense: Noroviruses are easily transferred to ready-to-eat foods via foodservice workers’ handling.

Study: Noroviruses easily spread by workers’ glovesHuman noroviruses are a leading cause of foodborne gastroenteritis throughout the world and the study by researchers at the Finnish Food Safety Authority and the University of Helsinki confirm virus-free food ingredients and good hand hygiene are needed to prevent contamination of prepared foods.

The study, http://bit.ly/1qwYFhW, “Norovirus Transmission between Hands, Gloves, Utensils, and Fresh Produce during Simulated Food Handling,” is part of a three-year project of detecting and eliminating viruses from food handling.

Leena Maunula, a university lecturer in veterinary medicine, and Maria Rönnqvist, a doctoral student at the food safety agency, examined the transmission of noroviruses from virus-contaminated hands to latex gloves during gloving.

Norviruses were transferred more efficiently from latex gloves to cucumbers than the opposite.

Study: Noroviruses easily spread by workers’ glovesWorkers should change gloves often as the study showed gloves are effective in transmitting noroviruses from the food handlers to the food and from one norovirus-contaminated food ingredient to prepared ready-to-eat food products.

Virus-contaminated gloves were estimated to transfer noroviruses to the food more efficiently than a single contaminated cucumber during handling.

Maunula and Rönnqvist also calculated that a norovirus-excreting food handler preparing ready-to-eat foods is likely to contaminate several food servings during their working shift if they don’t practice proper hand hygiene.

The researchers used swab samples to detect contamination and other studies they conducted show swab samples can be taken from the surface of lettuce leaves, a method that could be adopted to analyze any inanimate and hard vegetable surfaces, the researchers report.

To more efficiently prevent contamination, the researchers recommend additional studies on the transmission of noroviruses during food handling.