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Restaurant determined to 'serve up food not swine flu'

  • Story Highlights
  • Thai-themed restaurant in Madrid implements anti H1N1 flu measures
  • Employees have their temperatures taken, windows are opened, gel provided
  • Restaurant owner says there is "a big response" from other owners
By Patrick Sung Cuadrado
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A restaurateur has gone to great lengths to tackle the spread of the H1N1 virus in his eatery, including taking staff's temperatures before they start work and preventing them from touching plates directly.

Kitchen staff at Silk and Soya restaurant in Spain wear face masks and gloves while preparing food.

Kitchen staff at Silk and Soya restaurant in Spain wear face masks and gloves while preparing food.

Silk and Soya, a Thai-themed restaurant in Madrid, Spain, implemented the measures to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, in the upscale locale.

"We implemented these measures so that our employees would serve only food, not a virus," restaurant owner Cipri Quintas told CNN.

As well as employees having their temperatures taken before starting their shifts, windows are opened to aerate the restaurant before meals. Each table is set at least one meter -- 3.2 feet -- from any other table.

Any member of the kitchen staff involved in food preparation must wear a mask and gloves, and waiters are required to hold napkins when carrying plates to avoid touching them directly with their hands.

Upon entering the elevators leading to the top-floor restaurant, customers find an automatic disinfectant gel dispenser.

At each table, diners find a packet of gel next to their silverware. The restaurant's restroom doors are propped open, the lights turn on automatically and the faucets are hands-free -- measures intended to keep customers from having to touch surfaces after they've washed their hands.

Similar initiatives are under way around the world. Last spring, during the peak of the scare in Mexico City, restaurants were closed for 12 days. When the restaurants reopened, the government ordered owners to put extra space between the tables and not to allow more than half of seats to be filled at any given time; cooks and waiters were mandated to wear surgical masks.

The World Health Organization's Web site states that hand-washing is one of the best ways to prevent infection and provides instructions with drawings that can be printed and posted in public places, such as restaurants.

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Silk and Soya's Quintas started his anti-H1N1 measures in August and has already proved popular with some customers.

Simona Savin, who was having lunch, told CNN, "These are measures you don't see everywhere. Here you have everything. They are great because there's a need for hygiene."

Another diner, swimming coach Fernando Barea, said, "We came to the restaurant because we heard good things about it and I wanted to see these measures against the H1N1 flu. These measures should be used by other restaurants."

Quintas predicted they soon will be. "People from other businesses like hotels and theaters have called us asking, 'What have you done? Can we come see your setup?' There's been a big response," said Quintas.

He insisted that his goal is not solely to garner publicity, but to protect his customers and staff -- a responsibility, he said, that the business community at large should undertake.

One expert on the disease applauded the efforts and recommended they be broadened.
"They should implement them every winter against all respiratory diseases," said Dr. Tom Jefferson, a medical epidemiologist with the Cochrane Collaboration. The international organization reviews health care interventions and "promotes the search for evidence in the form of clinical trials and other studies of interventions," according to its Web site.

As of September 13, the WHO had tallied more than 296,000 cases worldwide, 3,486 of them fatal.

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