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Testing Food Service Employees: Policy Assessment


Mary Mallon, or Typhoid Mary as she was called, was a notorious healthy carrier of typhoid fever. She worked as a cook and was reputed to have caused infections of Typhoid fever in 47 people and caused the death of 3. What was worse was the she refused to admit that she was a carrier of the disease and continued to work in community kitchens in the US and fought efforts to quarantine her. Following the Mary Mallon incident, the health department adopted a policy that requires testing of all food handlers working in New York City for the presence of Typhoid bacteria (Leavitt, 1997). The paper evaluates the policy and assesses the manner in which the policy testing would be done.

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Understanding the Policy

Kansas State University (August 29, 2007) has framed a policy that would cover food handlers and food dispensing system in cafeterias and other locations where food is sold. These policies would be listed as below, and then an analysis would be done.

  • The policy requires that the food dispending system made up of food handlers, food preparation and the environment in which food is stored and dispensed should be strictly monitored. Only trained and approved personnel should be employed in this service and food should be prepared in approved kitchens.
  • Written permissions and clearances are required by the agencies involved in food preparation and clearance of personnel engaged in the preparation, from the sanitation and food inspection departments.
  • Items such as hamburgers, pastries with cream, custards, sandwiches, salads with meat or poultry products, gravy or fish are considered as hazardous. Items such as tea, coffee, commercially pre-packaged food items, hot dogs, cookies, and other such items are regarded as non hazardous.
  • All food handlers who are exposed to open food items, either in the raw stage or in the cooked stage have to be examined periodically for communicable diseases.
  • Health details of each food handler has to be maintained, and details of any illness or sickness should be entered in a form. If any member is found to have any sickness, then the person should undergo treatment and should be allowed to work again only after obtaining a fitness certificate.

Evaluating the Policy

An evaluation of the above policy is done as given below (Social Research Methods, 20 Oct 2006).

  1. Verify, define, and detail the problem: The problem is related to keeping out food handlers who are infected from handling food. The problem is about the possibility of infected food handlers contaminating food that would be eaten by other people, and there is a chance that healthy people may develop infections.
  2. Establish evaluation criteria: Evaluation criteria refers to finding out the health history of food handlers and finding out if they have suffered from any infectious diseases.
  3. Identify alternative policies: Alternate policies include the UWO policy for food handlers (UWO, 2004). This policy is drafted “to ensure that all University employees working in food preparation areas are regularly monitored for communicable diseases and/or infections as required by applicable legislation
  4. Evaluate alternative policies: The policy is much more robust and specific in terms of specifying different illness to be tested, method and frequency of testing.
  5. Display and distinguish among alternative policies: The first policy gave emphasis also on the nature of food preparation, how it was packed, the environment in which it cooked, and the manner in which it was transported. The second policy relates only to food handlers and communicable diseases and how to detect them in food handlers.
  6. 6. Monitoring the implemented policy: After the policy is implemented, a list of vendors and their employees who handle should be prepared. The short listed employees should then be made to undergo various tests of sputum, blood, stool, and other types of pathology exams.

Comparison of the Two policies

The policy set by Kansas State University (August 29, 2007) refers more to improving the whole system of food manufacturing, storage and handling system. It covers areas such as the hygiene of the food manufacturing place and of the cafeteria where the food is served, the manner in which food is stored and transported, and also the manner in which food handlers are to be tested for communicable diseases. The policy gives broad outlines and does not go into specifics. The policy by UWO (2004) is more specific about the kind of tests that food handlers have to undergo, listing of test types such as stool, sputum, blood and other tests. These tests are designed to find the extent to which a person is suffering from communicable diseases.


Kansas State University. (2007). .030 Food Dispensing Policy.

Leavitt. Judith. Walzer. (1996). The Most Dangerous Woman In America: Typhoid Mary: Villain or Victim?

PPA 670. (2008). The policy analysis process.

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Social Research Methods (2006). Steps for a Successful Policy Analysis.

UWO, 20 (2004). UWO Food Service Employees Health Screening Policy. Web.

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