Are Nursing Home Kitchens Endangering Residents?

soup-3310066_640.jpgPoorly maintained and operated nursing home kitchens place residents at considerable risk of food poisoning and other injuries. Nursing home operators have a duty of care to maintain these facilities and ensure staff members are properly trained in food handling procedures. Failing to adhere to established protocols and health standards is blatant negligence that can negatively impact the quality of life for residents.

Insects, Mold, Rodents, Mildew, Feces, and Breeding Grounds for Bacteria

Poorly maintained kitchens are breeding grounds for disease. Broken tiles and damaged counters provide spaces for bacteria to breed. Food that’s left to rot can release mold spores that can contaminate surfaces and other food items. Food that’s left out or allowed to rot beneath cabinets create a smorgasbord for rodents and insects to feast upon. These creatures bring bacteria, parasites, and viruses into the facility where they can breed and multiply.

Food safety violations are common in nursing home facilities in the United States. In the past few years, thousands of such violations were reported. These include failure to maintain coolers at proper temperatures, properly sanitize kitchen areas, properly label and dispose of food products, and cook food to the proper temperatures. All of these failures place residents at risk of injury. The risk of foodborne illnesses is very real and the consequences of contracting salmonella, botulism, etc. can be nothing short of fatal for elderly residents with diminished immune systems weakened by age and disease.

Nursing Home Liability

From 1998 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that 230 foodborne outbreaks occurred in long-term care facilities in the United States. These outbreaks caused 54 fatalities, 532 hospitalizations, and roughly 7,648 residents became sick after eating contaminated food products. The CDC also states that these figures are most likely understated and that the real numbers are likely much higher. Many food-related causes of injury are not reported, or it is not possible to conclusively determine the precise cause of a patient’s declining health. 

60 nursing homes in Illinois were cited in 2018 for food safety violations. This was the fourth-highest in the country after Texas, California, and Michigan. Penalties for these violations ranged from fines and denial of government payments to termination for Medicare/Medicaid programs. The problems brewing in the kitchen rippled through the facilities and had secondary impacts on residents. 

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