Rafael Bernal had a interesting story this morning on Sodexo’s apparent mismanagement of the cafeterias in the House of Representatives complex – see, cafeteria workers denounce working conditions. Perhaps not the risk to our democracy as January 6th, it might well give our representatives a “taste” of how important food safety really is.  Here is a few “tidbits” from Mr. Bernal’s article:

House of Representatives cafeteria workers say their working conditions have become untenable, leading to unsanitary conditions in the kitchens that serve Congress.

For months, workers in the House of Representatives’ multiple cafeterias have been denouncing the working conditions imposed by Sodexo, the cafeteria services contractor, but their pleas have fallen mostly on deaf ears.

The Hill spoke to four workers from three different Sodexo-operated cafeterias in the Capitol complex, all of whom said the company’s labor practices forced workers to forgo full sanitization of kitchens.

“There have been cutbacks. There were four people cleaning in there, now there’s only one person,” said a worker who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

“There are trash cans with maggots, there are rats, it’s dirty, and we have videos and photos,” added the worker.

The workers said conditions for longtime cafeteria workers have deteriorated since Sodexo took over operations in 2015, but things worsened during the pandemic.

It did remind me of a post I did back in August 2020 – see Ouch – Sodexo Faces Punitive Damages Claims in E. coli Outbreak Suits.  Here is the post in full:

As my Marine Corps dad use to say “Semper Fi.” (Semper fidelis is a Latin phrase that means “always faithful” or “always loyal”)

I am so proud of the work of the lawyers and staff at Marler Clark for finding Semper Fi in what we do for our clients.

Bloomberg’s Julie Steinberg reported on Food services company Sodexo Management Inc. facing punitive damages claims stemming from an E. coli outbreak at two California Marine Corps bases, after a federal court in California allowed eight plaintiffs to amend their complaints.

Vincent Grano and the other Marine recruits alleged they were sickened in 2017 from undercooked beef served at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

Several were left with kidney injuries that may require transplantation later in life, and two now ambulate with prosthetic hips. None were older than 20 at the time of the outbreak, and all lost their military careers, according to a filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

The outbreak sickened more than 230 recruits, but not all to the same severity, the filing said.

The plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a conscious disregard of risk, the standard for punitive damages under Calfornia law, the court said Tuesday. They also alleged the risk of food-borne illness was knowable to Sodexo and that the company had a long-standing pattern of inaction in addressing the risk, Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel said.

Sodexo employees and management officials had specific knowledge of the risks posed by undercooked beef and failed to review their meat-cooking processes over the course of a 15 to 17 year period leading up to the outbreak, the plaintiffs allege.

Sodexo didn’t address the mishandling of raw ground beef patties prior to cooking, failed to assure that final hamburger cook temperatures were consistently taken and recorded, and failed to assure that a safe combination of cook time and temperature was in use, the proposed amended lawsuits say.

At this juncture, the court’s task isn’t to award punitive damages ascertain whether they are warranted, but only to consider whether the proposed amended pleadings allege facts that would constitute a valid claim for punitive damages, it noted.

Marler Clark LLP represented the plaintiffs. Rodolff Law Firm APC and Koeller, Nebeker, Carlson & Haluck represented Sodexo.

The case is Grano v. Sodexo, Inc., S.D. Cal., No. 3:18-cv-01818, 8/18/20.

Here are some documents for easy downloading and reading:

Grano – No 173 SDX Opposition to MT Amend Complaints

Grano – No 174 Reply in Support of MFLTF Amended Complaints

Grano – No. 161 Motion FLTF Amended Complaints

Grano – No. 175 Order Granting Motion to File Amended Complaints

No 161-2 Dec of A. Dunkleberger

No 161-5 Dec of Rebecca Dunkleberger

No 161-6 Dec of Richard Raymond, MD

No 161-8 Memo of PandA ISO MFLTF Amended Complaints

No. 161- 4 Dec of Kirk Smith

No. 161-3 Dec of Erik Salcido

And, I really LOVE emails.

Here is the CDC Abstract:

Authors: Amelia Keaton, R. Hassan, S. Luna, I. Lee, R. Magalhaes, M. Bidlack, L. Smith, R. Maves, D. Freer, K. Flinn, G. Monk, P. Graf, K. Trinh, J. Crandall, D. Noveroske, G. Fortenberry, L. Ramos, R. Recio, C. Peak, E. McDonald, T. Waltz, K. Patel, D. Wagner, J. Espiritu, L. Christensen, L. Gieraltowski

Background: Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infections are a substantial cause of foodborne illness and a cause of hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). In November 2017, CDC assisted the US Navy in a response to an outbreak of STEC illnesses in recruits at a Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego (MCRD). We investigated to determine the source of this outbreak and identify prevention and mitigation measures.

Methods: In October 2017, medical providers identified a high number of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses at MCRD. Recruits with diarrhea submitted stool specimens for culture and/or culture-independent diagnostic testing (CIDT) for GI pathogens. We performed pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) on culture isolates. Case-patients were then defined as follows: confirmed (PFGE-confirmed STEC infection matching outbreak strains), probable (diagnosis of HUS and/or CIDT evidence of STEC), and suspected (bloody diarrhea). We conducted environmental evaluations of facilities, training areas, and barracks. A case-control study was performed using PFGE-confirmed case-patients and platoon-matched controls. We performed product traceback for foods identified as exposure risks by interview or case-control study.

Results: We identified 62 confirmed, 62 probable, and 120 suspected case-patients. Thirty case-patients required hospitalization and 15 had HUS. Case-patient ages ranged from 17-28 years (median: 18 years). Poor hygiene practices among recruits and inconsistent cooking temperatures within dining facilities were noted. Forty-three case-patients and 135 controls were interviewed about food, hygiene, and environmental exposures. Consumption of undercooked beef was found to be significantly associated with illness, (mOR 2.40, CI 1.04-5.72, p=0.04). We identified a single ground beef supplier for MCRD, but MCRD records did not document which specific lots of ground beef were used.

Conclusions: Case-control analysis and environmental observations suggested undercooked ground beef as a potential source for this outbreak. We recommended the Navy and Marine Corps retain lot information, address food handling concerns, and improve hygiene among recruits.

REF:  https://www.cdc.gov/eis/downloads/eis-conference-2018-508.pdf, page 117