Questions still swirl around appropriate steps that must be taken in the event of a body fluid spill in a place where food is sold. What actions are required? What types of businesses count as “food establishments?” Is an emergency spill kit the way to go?

Below, we attempt to answer some common questions and provide clarity around an issue that can seem unnecessarily complex.

Am I required to have a body fluid spill kit?

This question isn’t as simple as it sounds. You’re required to have written procedures in place for employees to follow when responding to vomiting or diarrheal events. Both the 2013 and 2009 FDA Food Codes make these recommendations. The health departments of 37 states have adopted these guidelines, making them an enforceable requirement. Some local and county health departments in the remaining states have adopted the guidelines, too. If you choose a body fluid spill kit that includes written procedures for cleanup plus every tool you’ll need, all in one place, it becomes your protocol in a box and signals to health inspectors that you are in compliance.

We anticipate that by 2020, all 50 states will have signed the recommendations into law. So if you are in one of the 37 states that have already done so, you are required to have the protocols. If you are in the remaining 13 states, you soon will be.

A single outbreak of foodborne illness in your business can bring brand-killing media coverage and sicken even more people. Is it worth the risk?

What kinds of businesses need to comply?

Any “food establishment”—and that’s not just restaurants. It also includes any store that sells food, even prepackaged items like chips, candy bars, and sodas, whether or not those aren’t your primary business. Self-serve hot dogs, pizza, and grab-and-go items also obviously count. Stadium concession stands and nursery schools that dole out snacks or meals need to be compliant, too. If you think the rule might affect you, it probably does.

I’ve got a mop and some bleach. Isn’t that good enough?

Trust us, you want everything used to clean up one of these events to be disposable so it’s not in your establishment any longer than it has to be. When you’re dealing with a biohazard spill, some very nasty bugs like norovirus, E. coli, and salmonella come along for the ride.

If you use your house mop and bucket to clean up a body fluid spill and then put it back in your closet, contagious organisms are still all over them. You’re harboring microscopic germs and bacteria that can continue to contaminate for weeks or even months. For example, the highly contagious norovirus can survive on surfaces for weeks. It only takes 18 viral particles of norovirus to cause illness, and each biohazard spill has millions of them.

A word about bleach: It takes five minutes for bleach to kill bacteria and viruses. That means you have to put it on and walk away, leaving the fumes to rise. Fumes that your employees and customers shouldn’t have to inhale. Bleach also has to be repeatedly rinsed as a final step. Look for a sanitizer that kills norovirus, salmonella, E. coli, and listeria quickly, is safe for use on food surfaces, and requires no rinsing.

How can a spill kit help me?

It is your most comprehensive, cost-effective option for vomit spills and other biohazards. Each kit should contain printed instructions, head-to-toe personal protective equipment, and every tool needed for cleanup. There is no easier way to clean up a bodily fluid incident, protect the public, and satisfy health inspectors.

Owen Griffin is the managing partner and CFO of Beginning his career as a public accounting CPA, Owen is responsible for strategic growth, business development, and finance. provides OSHA and food safety solutions to organizations in the foodservice and healthcare industries, serving national restaurant chains, retail food stores, and distributors.
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