News Investigation Finds Unsanitary Nursing Home Kitchens are Making Residents Sick

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on February 7, 2020 in Nursing Homes and Elder Rights
Updated on April 25, 2024

cockroach on breadResidents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the nation have suffered foodborne illnesses caused by serious food safety violations. Thousands of citations have been issued for violations that included undercooked food, moldy kitchen devices, cockroaches, mouse droppings and more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that from 1998 to 2017, there were at least 230 foodborne reported outbreaks responsible for 532 hospitalizations, 54 fatalities and for the illnesses of 7,648 others.

If your loved one became ill in a nursing home due to a foodborne illness caused by unsanitary conditions, we encourage you to contact our experienced Wisconsin nursing home abuse attorneys at PKSD. We are prepared to determine your potential legal options in a completely free initial consultation.

Investigation Uncovers Unsafe Kitchen Conditions

FairWarning, a non-profit news organization, recently revealed its findings following a five-month investigation that uncovered thousands of quality and health issues in nursing home kitchens due to unsanitary conditions.

In 2018, 33 percent of nursing homes received citations for violating federal requirements related to food storage, preparation and service. Unsafe food handling was the third-leading citation in over 15,700 nursing homes in the U.S. in 2018. Many long-term care facilities receive multiple citations year after year for the same health and quality issues related to their kitchen conditions and food handling practices.

Foodborne outbreaks in nursing homes, many of which go unreported, are extremely dangerous for residents 65 and older. These residents already have weakened immune systems along with other chronic health issues and the onset of age-related gastrointestinal changes, making them especially susceptible to foodborne illnesses.

Some of the violations the organization found include:

  • Mold in ice machines
  • Flies surrounding meat residents consumed
  • Cockroaches behind a facility’s oven
  • Mouse droppings found on a stove hood
  • Expired food in the kitchen
  • Debris on a meat slicer, stovetops and microwaves
  • Possible cross contamination
  • Lack of following proper hand-washing procedures

The CDC estimates that since it primarily relies on each facility to voluntarily report incidents of foodborne illnesses, there are likely a significant number of unreported cases.

Unfortunately, food safety may be further affected by the Trump administration’s recent decision, in July 2019, to “roll back” various nursing home protections for residents, including a proposal that reduces the quality requirements for certain food and nutrition services. Additionally, there is inadequate oversight for many nursing homes due to insufficient staff to regularly inspect these facilities.

Illnesses Caused by Unhygienic Conditions

Unhygienic conditions can result in a number of serious health effects, including:

  • Food poisoning
  • Foodborne induced gastroenteritis
  • Salmonella
  • Campylobacter
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Staphylococcus aureus infections
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Death

Additionally, poor hygiene can encourage the formation of harmful bacteria and germs that can weaken a person’s immune system or make existing medical conditions worse.

Why Hygiene Is Neglected in Nursing Homes

There are a number of reasons why nursing homes do not have proper hygiene. However, nursing homes have the legal obligation to provide proper care to nursing home patients and to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to their residents.

Some of the factors that may contribute to unhygienic nursing homes include:

  • Understaffing – Many nursing homes are chronically understaffed leading to facilities cutting corners.
  • High turnover – People who work at nursing homes often quit because the pay is low, and the demands are high. High turnover contributes to a nursing home being understaffed.
  • Lack of training – Lower-level staff members may not receive important training such as the importance of hand washing, how to properly clean the facilities to keep them sanitary, how to prepare food or how to attend patients with their basic needs.
  • Lack of procedures – Nursing homes may fail to implement important hygiene measures.

How a Lawyer May be Able to Help

Nursing homes or staff members who cause a patient to suffer an injury or illness due to unsanitary conditions or poor hygiene can be held liable for their neglect.

At PKSD, our experienced lawyers are prepared to review the details of your potential claim and determine whether you may be able to pursue compensation on your loved one’s behalf.

Call to schedule your free, no-risk consultation today: 414-333-3333

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