It has been known for some time that the Rhode Island Health Department found health violations at DeFusco’s bakery during inspections conducted as a result of the zeppoles Salmonella outbreak.  Press reports indicated that ready-to-eat pastry shells were stored in used cardboard egg cartons, and certain food products, including the pastry cream, were not held at temperatures low enough to prevent bacterial growth. 

The report from the inspection conducted on March 25, however, shows a lot more than that.  It will be difficult to defend against claims of negligence in the Salmonella lawsuit that will surely flow from this outbreak.  Simply put, handwashing standards seem to have been virtually non-existent.  Here are the details, including brief analysis as to why and how these failures might have contributed to the spread of disease in the Defusco’s Salmonella outbreak (See full inspection report from March 25, 2011 inspection, as well as December 2010 and June 2009:  0328_defusco_inspection_reports[1].pdf):

  • “The Person in charge did not assure compliance with critical code requirements” (how can you expect rank-and-file employees to know the requirements of the food code if the “Person in charge” doesn’t?)
  • “employees wash their hands in the three bay sink which did not have soap or paper towels” (soap is necessary to lift salmonella bacteria, not kill it, from the surface of ones hands; not having paper towels makes employees less likely to wash their hands at all)
  • “The kitchen does not have a handsink that is conveniently located and/or readily accessible” (Again, not having the right equipment and facilities for handwashing means less handwashing)
  • “The handsink in the bathroom does not have running water — hot or cold” (No expert analysis needed; this is a gross safety failure, but we have seen it before in other lawsuits and outbreaks)

Some other major food safety violations that may have caused, or contributed to, the Defusco’s salmonella outbreak:

  • “Staff failed to sanitize equipment and utensils after washing and rinsing them” (procedures with regard to the sanitization of equipment used to prepare raw foods exist for a reason. These code sections set forth not only required, but best practices to prevent the spread of disease)
  • “The paddle to the dough mixer, knives, tips of pastry bags, trays, utensils, and filler equipment had an accumulation of food and debris” (we have seen this cause Salmonella outbreaks before; what happens is that bacteria harbored in one batch of product contaminates a surface or a crevice that then leads to the contamination of other batches of product, resulting in a major outbreak, like we have here)
  • “Food products stored on the floor” (the floor is an area of any food production environment where bacteria are prevalent; storage of food or equipment there increases the risk of contamination)
  • “nonfood-contact surfaces of the proofer, three bay sink, and storage containers have an accumulation of dust, dirt, food residue and other debris”; “The floors and walls in the kitchen area have an accumulation of soil residue and food debris” (just a dirty, dangerous environment to be producing food in)

DeFusco’s has done a very poor job of ensuring the safety of its food products and customers.