Friday, July 26, 2013

Silversea responds to Sanitation Score Failure

As you may know, cruise ships that sail under the Centers for Disease Control Vessel Sanitation Program’s jurisdiction are subject to two unannounced inspections each year. Under the VSP guidelines, ships are scored on a 100-point scale and must achieve a score of 86 to pass. Most ships pass their inspections with fairly high scores in the 90s and some even reach a perfect 100 score.

With that in mind, it was a surprise when Silversea Cruises’Silver Shadow failed its inspection last month with a dismal 82. Many of the violations reported on the CDC website were minor, but this one has caught the attention of the public and media:
“An organized effort was made to physically remove over 15 full trolleys of dry foods, spices, canned foods, cooked foods, milk, raw meats, pasteurized eggs, cheeses of all types, baking goods, raw fruits, raw vegetables, and a variety of both hand held and counter model food equipment, pans, dishware and utensils to over 10 individual cabins shared by two or three galley crew members in order to avoid inspection by VSP staff. All the out of temperature potentially hazardous foods were discarded along with most other foods that were not canned or in original containers. The lead VSP inspector poured concentrated chlorine liquid over all the discarded foods as they were dumped into garbage bags to ensure they would not be used again.”
That revelation alone is enough to raise a yuck factor in most of us, but Silversea assured us that the line has taken appropriate action by responding to some specific concerns that are addressed below:

Q. What is Silversea going to do to ensure standards are regularly met and that this practice is not used on ships within the fleet?

A. Silversea Cruises has fully investigated this matter and the accusations of a previous crew member. We take this infraction extremely seriously and wish to reassure all guests on our cruises that from all our investigations we believe this to be an extremely uncommon occurrence on Silversea vessels. Our record of inspections with the VSP shows that we maintain extremely high standards of hygiene on our vessels. As a result of this inspection, we have taken this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the highest possible standards of food hygiene and focused all our attentions on actions to ensure nothing like this can ever happen again.

Q. What specific actions have you taken?

A. We have assigned an external sanitation specialist consultant to travel on-board Silver Shadow. Together with our own managers, the consultant has worked through every aspect of the USPHS inspection report to ensure full compliance.
-Our Fleet Executive Chef spent one month on-board the Silver Shadow retraining the Galley management Team through policies and procedures.
-Additional training was provided for all food handlers and supervisors, butlers, cooks, waiters and bar staff to reinforce company procedures, with particular emphasis on food sanitation.
-All equipment that does not meet the requirements of the CDC inspection has been discarded and replaced.
-CCTV is being placed in appropriate corridors at the next dry-docking to ensure no foodstuffs or other equipment is brought into crew accommodation areas.
-A procedure in which any member of staff can inform management, anonymously, of any failures to follow procedures involving food handling and preparation is being introduced immediately.
-Finally, a zero tolerance policy has been instituted in relation to improper food handling at all times, including USPHS inspections.
Q. Have people been held accountable for these actions?

A. Yes, the individuals responsible for this situation are no longer with Silversea. We will not identify the crew members’ names or positions. In addition, we realize that Silversea management has to take its share of a responsibility and ensure that this does not happen again.

Q. Has Silversea management ever pressured crew to hide violations from health authorities?

A. Silversea Cruises management directs staff to be transparent with USPHS/CDC inspectors. Our investigation indicates that, in the Silver Shadow situation, some of our staff made an impulsive decision, and we need to look at what happened, who found it necessary to authorise such activity and how we can avoid having this situation happen again. Our Executive Chef, external sanitation expert and other managers have spent much time on-board since the inspection re training and briefing teams on what is expected of them in the full understanding that the chefs and their staffs have to provide some of the finest food available anywhere in the world to our guests in the safest manner possible.

In an added statement by Silversea, the line says “there will be a further inspection by the United States Public Health Service before the Silver Shadow leaves Alaskan waters at the end of August, which we welcome as we believe and trust the results of any follow-up inspection will demonstrate Silversea’s commitment to maintain the best standards in sanitation and hygiene on board its fleet.”

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