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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Got a Venereal Disease? You Can't Work in S.F. Restaurants

Posted By on Thu, Aug 4, 2011 at 11:40 AM

The S.F. Health code was probably written in the same era as this 1933 pamphlet
  • The S.F. Health code was probably written in the same era as this 1933 pamphlet

SF Weekly writers do not, in fact, peruse the San Francisco Health Code in our spare time, but in working on another blog post last week, we came across this gem in Article 8 (Food and Food Products):

Sec. 453: Diseased Employees

No employer shall require, permit or suffer any person to work, nor shall any person work, in a building, room, basement, cellar, place or vehicle, occupied or used for the production, preparation, manufacture, packing, storage, sale, distribution or transportation of food, who is afflicted or affected with or who is a carrier of any venereal disease, smallpox, diphtheria, scarlet fever, yellow fever, tuberculosis, consumption, bubonic plague, Asiatic cholera, leprosy, trachoma, typhoid fever, epidemic dysentery, measles, mumps, German measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, or any other infectious or contagious disease.

Wait, what? We thought this was the 21st century? We weren't aware that there were any outbreaks of bubonic plague or smallpox in the neighborhood, and we're not sure why tuberculosis gets two mentions (consumption is tuberculosis in more quaint lingo).

But more troubling is the part which says "any venereal disease" which, if you think about it, would include viruses like HPV and herpes. According to the Center for Disease Control, at least 50 percent of sexually active men and women get HPV at some point in their lives, and one out of six people have herpes. So this could mean -- assuming S.F. restaurant workers are sexually active -- that at least half of the food industry workers in S.F. are working illegally.

We called a number of restaurant owners and managers, all of whom said they had never heard of the ordinance. Jordan Dunn, manager at the Tipsy Pig, told SF Weekly, "This is my first knowledge of it. It's never crossed our path." Another owner, who asked to remain anonymous, laughed and said, "I definitely don't know anyone who has the plague."

"I do not know when this was originally drafted. I would think that this section is post-WWI," senior health inspector Kenny Wong responded to SF Weekly in an email.

He explained that the California Retail Food Code does require operators to report diseases, but only when they may be transmitted through food, such as salmonella, E. coli, or hepatitis A. In that case, the infected employee will be restricted from working with food until cleared by a environmental health inspector. He said Sec 453 is not enforced.

Wong notes at the end of his e-mail, "Sounds like this section should be revised to meet current medical science and current culture."

No kidding.

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Caroline Chen


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