Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally issued a report regarding the United States Public Health Inspection (USPH) inspection of the Carnival Vista which took place six weeks ago, on December 2, 2017. The USPH sanitation inspection resulted in a failing score of only 79. Any score of 85 or lower is a failing score according to the U.S. Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP).
Most significantly, the sanitation inspectors found that the Carnival crew members were caught hiding perishable food and galley equipment in crew quarters. The report stated that "an organized effort was made to physically move several containers and trolleys of food equipment, utensils, spices, potentially hazardous food items, raw produce, and decorations to a crew cabin hallway and a crew cabin in order to avoid inspection by VSP staff."
The USPH concluded that crew members moved trolleys filled with lexan boxes of perishable food and galley equipment in order to hide the items from the inspectors. Included on the trolleys were lexan boxes filled with butter, buttermilk, whipping cream, raw salmon, raw lamb and other meats. Inspectors discovered a skillet of lasagna near a crew member bed. Mixed with this food in the lexan boxes were galley machine equipment and batteries, among other items. Flies were found in some food containers.
In addition, the inspectors found incomplete and/or inaccurate acute gastrointeritis logs, soiled lexan boxes and galley equipment, incorrect time control labels, and raw meat and fish contaminating salad items.
This is not the first time that crew members were caught hiding food and galley equipment. In 2013, crew members on the Silver Shadow hid food, dirty pots & pans and cooking equipment from U.S. health inspectors. The Silversea cruise ship eventually received a failing score of 82. CNN aired a special on the story. Photographs of this practice are to the left, above left and lower left.
Over the years, we have heard from thousands of crew members from around the world about the tremendous amount of effort they spend trying to get the cruise ships ready for USPH Inspections. USPH inspections in theory are suppose to be unannounced, but in reality they are rarely a surprise, crew members tell us. Cruise lines routinely hire people in a supervisory position from federal agencies like the USPH, FBI and Coast Guard. In turn, the cruise lines sometimes receive a head’s up from their friends in the federal government when the ship will be met by a team of USPH inspectors.
When a USPH inspection is about to happen, the food and beverage workers will literally work 18 to 24 hours on the days right before the cruise ship arrives in the port where the inspection will take place. There are certain types of baking pans and sheets used everyday for frying greasy food which are extremely difficult to get clean and probably won’t pass inspection. There are hundreds of these pots and pans which the crew try and clean in the pot wash room but it’s difficult to get them all spotless. So what happens is that the galley cleaners are sometimes instructed to rack the pans and sheets in large trolleys and then hide the trolleys down in the crew quarters.
When the USPH inspection is truly a surprise, crew members tell us that there is often a mad scramble to dump everything dirty into lexan boxes and cartons and then stash the stuff in crew members cabins and corridors on the crew-only areas on the lower decks.
A bad USPH score is a kiss of death for a cruise ship F&B department head and his supervisors. Ships cut corners to pass inspections.
Over the years, many crew members send us photos of the food and equipment which they are ordered to hide in the crew quarters (photo right from the MSC Poesia).
What I can only conclude from the report regarding the Carnival Vista is that the USPH inspection was in fact a surprise inspection that caught Carnival doing what it and other cruise lines regularly do – hiding food and galley equipment from sanitation inspectors.
In addition to the Carnival Vista, the Carnival Breeze also officially flunked its USPH inspection which took place five weeks ago. Last month, we were tipped off of the failed inspection score of only 77 by crew members and we published the news on December 11, 2017. The official CDC report was finally published today and the Vista did in fact receive a failing score of only 77.
There was a long list of unsanitary conditions found by the inspectors on the Carnival Breeze. Inspectors documented 25 red garbage bins which were "full and overflowing with food waste in the provision corridor on top of wooden pallets and directly outside a lift labeled for food." Most troubling was evidence that crew members on the Carnival Breeze were working even though the medical records indicate that they were suffering from signs of acute gastroenteritis (this was also the situation with the Vista). Meanwhile, food handlers aboard the Vista who did not work while ill with gastrointestinal symptoms were disciplined on several occasions for not working.
As I stated in Are Failed USPH Cruise Ship Sanitation Inspections Really Rare?, approximately 20 cruise ships have failed USPH inspections in the last four years.
Neither the Vista nor the Breeze submitted corrective action reports, indicating that they have corrected the deficiencies noted by the USPH inspectors last month.
It’s discouraging that the USPH does not promptly publish reports when a cruise ship fails an inspection. As I previously stated, It seems disconcerting that if the CDC is really concerned about preventing disease on cruise ships, that it would sit on reports of potential public health hazards on several cruise ships for well over a month.
Photo credits: Anonymous crew members aboard the Silver Shadow and MSC Poesia.
The Miami Herald covered the story earlier this afternoon – Inspectors caught Carnival crew hiding dirty conditions. It’s their third ship to fail.
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