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Unsanitary Nursing Home Kitchens Jeopardize Residents’ Health

A five-month investigation has uncovered thousands of food safety violations at nursing homes throughout the U.S. The report, published by FairWarning, a nonprofit investigative news organization, details disturbing incidents in nursing home kitchens. Mouse droppings on stoves, flies landing on uncovered food, cockroaches behind ovens and mold inside ice machines are just a few of the serious problems reported.

The FairWarning study found that in 2018, California had the second most enforcement actions — 73 — for federal food safety violations in nursing homes, trailing only Michigan, which had 117 violations. State authorities in California temporarily closed the kitchens in three nursing homes in 2018 because of unsafe conditions. Inspectors found cockroach infestations at two of the homes, while the third was said to contain numerous dead flies and “the strong smell of feces and sewage” in the kitchen, according to an inspector’s report.

Sanitation in nursing home kitchens is critical because people 65 and older tend to have weaker immune systems, underlying diseases and digestive issues that make them more susceptible to foodborne illnesses than the average person. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 230 foodborne outbreaks of disease occurred in American’s long-term care facilities from 1998 to 2017, causing 54 fatalities and sickening more than 7,500 people. What’s more, the CDC believes the actual numbers are much higher, since there is a chronic underreporting of incidents.

Advocates for nursing home safety point out that virtually any restaurant, from fast food to fine dining, would be shut down immediately for such conditions, yet kitchens in elder care facilities usually remain in operation. FairWarning points out that the problem is made even more difficult by a lack of uniform standards for inspections of nursing home kitchens. Only a few states actually send food safety specialists to inspect kitchens, while most states leave it up to nurses.

At Patterson Law, we are passionate advocates for the rights of nursing home patients. We have handled dozens of personal injury and wrongful death claims arising from nursing home abuse, neglect and other mistreatment.

If you are in a nursing home and need help, or if you have an elderly loved one in a care facility that you suspect is unsanitary, Patterson Law is ready to help. We’ll investigate the matter and do everything possible to find an appropriate remedy, including filing a lawsuit for monetary damages. Reach our Santa Barbara office at 888-479-4589 or contact us online.