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Foodborne illness can be caused by numerous pathogens. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated Shigella species as one of the “Big Six'' microorganisms that is highly infectious and can cause severe foodborne illnesses. Shigella outbreaks have been linked to both food handlers working while ill and contaminated foods. Foodservice establishments and retailers need to be aware of this microorganism and how to protect food from contamination.

To find out more about this dangerous pathogen and learn how to minimize the risk of a shigellosis outbreak in your business, check out our Shigella knowledge sheet.

How is Shigella transmitted?

Shigella is easily passed from person to person through fecal-oral transmission. Shigella infection can be transmitted through any foods touched by an infected food handler who prepares food that is served without further cooking. Hands can become contaminated with Shigella bacteria when using the toilet or changing a diaper. If hands are not washed after completing these tasks, they can spread bacteria to other surfaces and food.

Foods harvested from Shigella-contaminated waters (especially shellfish) or grown in fields that use contaminated irrigation water for produce could also result in illness, especially if these foods are eaten raw. Foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to Shigella species have included various salads (tuna, chicken, turkey, shrimp, and potato), strawberries, spinach, raw oysters, milk, luncheon meats, pudding, and rice balls.

Shigella prevention tips

Use the following prevention methods to reduce the risk of a Shigella outbreak in your business.

  1. Ensure an approved water supply is used for all food facility operations.
  2. Have Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place for produce washing, hand washing, personal hygiene, and sanitation.
  3. Have an employee wellness policy to exclude employees with symptoms of foodborne illness, such as vomiting and/or diarrhea.
  4. Maintain facilities so there is no sewage backflow — an imminent health hazard. Require the food establishment to close if this occurs in a food preparation area.
  5. Follow-up on any customer foodborne illness claims without delay and notify the health department of multiple claims immediately.

If there is a Shigella outbreak at your facility, Steritech offers Crisis Management assistance. We also provide a wide selection of health and safety services that aim to reduce the risk of transmission of food-borne illnesses. Contact us today to learn more.


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