Target: Center for Disease Control
Goal: Mandatory inspections for all cruise lines with strict punishment for health violations.
Recently the Center for Disease Control’s Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) surprised kitchen workers of a luxury cruise liner with an unscheduled inspection. Acting on photos sent by a crew member of the Silver Shadow, owned by Silversea Cruise Lines, deplorable conditions and outrageous health code misconduct were found. On board, a search outside of galley areas revealed a total of fifteen trolleys of food wheeled into crew member hallways to avoid inspection. These food carts, stacked with raw meats, eggs, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, milk, cooked foods, cooking equipment, dishware and utensils, had been packed tightly out of view.
Since the unscheduled tour by health officials, a number of crew members have come forward with tales of horrific food handling practices. Stories of being told to house trays of unrefrigerated perishables in their own quarters, along with evidence of meat being stored in the sinks of crew member cabins, conjure scenarios of widespread sickness. The Center for Disease Control’s website outlines the abhorrent conditions of the kitchen, citing improper food cooling procedures, the presence of insects, and dust and mildew covering refrigerator condensers.
With all of these grievances brought to light, what can be done? Nothing. Although the Vessel Sanitization Program is part of the National Center for Environmental Health’s Division of Emergency and Environmental Health Services, and operates under the authority of the Public Health Service Act, they seem to have no authority. They employ United States Health Department inspectors and are considered a regulatory program, but could only offer what I hope was at least a verbal lashing to the employees of the Silversea Line. By current guidelines, the only action that can be taken was to ask the cruise line to correct their violations and require them to submit a corrective action statement. Even this verdict is hindered from being properly exacted. No verification is made to ensure action has been taken until the next scheduled inspection, and with only two annually, much room is left for unresolved health issues. To add to these worrisome practices, cooperation by vessels to be inspected is voluntary. That’s right vacation goers, your cruise ship of choice does not have to, and may not, submit themselves for health inspection.
In its 267 page manual, the Vessel Sanitization Program requires that ships have in place, and adhere to, strict sanitization standards and food handling procedures. They also promise the public an “aggressive and ongoing effort to achieve and maintain high standards of food safety and environmental sanitation”. The VSP offers many helpful programs, including training seminars, consultative services, inspections, and provides the public with much needed information regarding their safety. All of these efforts are beneficial only if actions are accountable for and follow through is maintained.
Dear Center for Disease Control and Prevention,
Recent health violations by Silver Shadow cruise liner have raised concerns that require immediate attention. With a lack of requirement for all cruise lines to submit to mandatory health inspections, and no authority given to ensure change, the public is being subjected to unnecessary health risks.
Alarming reports of common food hiding practices, minimal bi-annual inspections, and a growing number of cruise ships and travelers, action must be taken. The Center for Disease Control must require all cruise ships submit to mandatory inspections and authority must be given to do more than deduct points from a score that means little if no change occurs.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: maritimematters.com