The State of Florida has eliminated food safety inspections in hospitals, nursing homes and day care centers. This cost-cutting measure took effect on July 1st.
By signing the budget bill, Governor Christ has acquiesced in a state-wide experiment in food safety self-policing involving the most susceptible populations in the state – the sick, the elderly and young children. Florida, by the way, will continue to police food safety in prisons.
Let me predict the outcome of this experiment:
- More hospital-acquired infections, resulting in longer hospital stays – and more deaths
- More outbreaks of Norovirus, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria monocytogenes in nursing homes and day care centers
- More day care centers forced to close temporarily due to outbreaks of Norovirus, Salmonella, Shigella and E. coli infections.
- Higher health care costs passed through to the general public to deal with the unintended consequences of Florida's cost-cutting measure.
The danger is real. Forty-two patients and 12 staff members at a Louisiana hospital were infected with Clostridium perfringens in early May. Three patients died! Subsequent investigation traced the contamination to chicken salad that was improperly stored. Investigators highlighted deficiencies in dietary services and concerns with overall operation of the hospital. The Hospital Administrator has since resigned.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), 15 outbreaks of foodborne illness have been linked to hospitals, nursing homes and day care centers in Florida since 1995. The elimination of food safety inspections for these cost-conscious facilities guarantees that the frequency of outbreaks will increase substantially.
"Ending food safety inspections in the kitchens that feed those [susceptible] populations is like taking seatbelts out of their cars and hoping no one has an accident."
– Sarah Klein, Center for Science in the Public Interest
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