Restaurant Corporation First to Mandate Hepatitis Vaccine

A Michigan restaurant corporation is protecting the safety of its customers and employees by requiring all food-handler employees to get vaccinations for the Hepatitis A virus.

The Unique Restaurant Corp. (URC) of Bingham Farms, Mich., is putting safety ahead of the norm in the restaurant industry by requiring all food-handler employees to get vaccinations for the Hepatitis A virus (HAV).

Company-wide mandatory vaccinations were set to begin yesterday.

Matt Prentice, URC president, decided to begin mandatory inoculations, not because of any problems in his restaurants, but out of concern for the safety of his diners and employees.

"We take every precaution to ensure safe food handling. But, no matter how clean the restaurant, how well trained or watchful the staff, vaccination is the only guaranteed way to prevent the spreading of Hepatitis A," said Prentice.

The 250 current URC employees who will be vaccinated include all dish washers, line cooks, kitchen management and prep cooks.

All new food-handler employees will be required to get the Hepatitis A vaccination as part of their pre-employment drug screening and physical.

The vaccinations will cost the company more than $30,000, but that is apparently a small price to pay for ensuring safety.

"URC has a history of being proactive when it comes to guest and employee safety. This is our insurance," said Prentice.

The Center for Prevention and Disease Control says an estimated 125,000 to 200,000 cases of HAV are reported each year in the United States.

Nationwide outbreaks strike on an average of every 10 years, with the most recent in 1989.

Total costs associated with Hepatitis A in the United States are estimated at more than $200 million annually.

In addition to healthcare costs, infected adults are often unable to work for an average of five weeks, resulting in approximately $2,600 in lost wages.

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