A nationwide survey found out that most of the food workers in the U.S. still report for work even when sick.
Based on a poll conducted by the Center for Research and Public Policy for Alchemy Systems, the majority of food industry workers are most likely to show up for work even when sick with illnesses that will most likely make their customers ill as well.
Survey findings revealed that 51 percent of food workers report that they "always" or "frequently" report to work even while sick. These findings were more or less the same as the last time these surveys were conducted, and are part of a larger study to determine safety issues on major food and food production industries.
"It's very expensive to skip work, because we don't get paid if we're not at work," said Christine Gnecco, who worked for the Olive Garden Restaurants in Pennsylvania.
She also appears to be aware that she could have passed the illness to her customers, adding that despite following sanitary procedures to the letter, she still worried that she was going to make someone sick.
While the health risk of letting sick employees report for work will depend on the illness, food safety expert Martin Bucknavage said it is a problem if a worker reports with a contagious illness. Illnesses such as Hepatitis A, salmonella and norovirus are easily transmittable to food an infected worker touches.
"People in the food safety community have been talking about this (scenario) for years," said Professor Jay Neal from the University of Houston's college of hotel and restaurant management.
The professor then added that while many food workers report to work sick out of a need for the pay, other factors may motivate them as well. Looking back to the survey, while 47 percent of the workers reported in because they did not want to miss getting paid, at least half still goes to work because they did not want to burden co-workers with their absence.
"A lot of them have a deep sense of loyalty to their job, not necessarily to the leadership, but to the team, their co-workers," said Neal.
The food industry's challenge, therefore, lies in how to convince their workers, perhaps through incentives, to stay home while they are sick.