Norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, is the most common cause of infectious intestinal disease, resulting in diarrhoea and vomiting, in the UK. Find out about the work being done to reduce foodborne norovirus under the Agency's Foodborne Disease Strategy.

The Second Study of Infectious Intestinal Disease in the Community (IID2 study) published in September 2011, suggested that there were approximately 3 million UK cases of norovirus annually.

Although most cases are caused by contact with an infected person, a proportion of cases are due to contaminated food and drink. In 2011 there were an estimated 314,000 cases of foodborne norovirus infection in the UK.

Preventing contamination and infection

The most effective way to prevent the spread of norovirus, whether person-to-person or via contamination of food by food handlers, is through people practicing good personal hygiene, especially regular and effective hand-washing.

The Agency has issued advice to businesses in the ‘Food handlers: fitness to work’ guidance below. It is important that food handlers, whether in food production or catering settings, do not attend work while experiencing diarrhoea and vomiting and should not return to work unless symptoms have ceased for 48 hours.

The foodborne virus programme

A programme of research has been developed to improve our understanding of foodborne norovirus and the impact of the food chain on norovirus illness in the UK. Outcomes from this research will inform an evidence-based norovirus risk management programme and help identify potential interventions to control foodborne spread of this pathogen. This research programme forms part of the FSA’s Foodborne Disease Strategy.

The FSA is focusing its activity and research on foodborne norovirus in three key areas:

  • food handlers
  • shellfish
  • fresh produce

Details about our work in these areas can be found on the ‘more about norovirus’ page below.

Related pages

More in this section

Norovirus: The EU perspective

Foodborne viruses are the second most common cause of foodborne outbreaks in the European Union (EU) after Salmonella. This is based on the number of verified outbreaks reported to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA has published two Scientific Opinions on foodborne viruses since 2011 and made a number of recommendations on the need to gather data and on potential control options.

Norovirus and Hepatitis (A & E) research

As part of our research strategy in this area, the FSA organised an international research conference on foodborne viruses in January 2013 to identify any knowledge gaps that exist and inform the direction of further research to address these gaps. Further details of the conference can be found in the 'related items' link below.