|Prompted by recent outbreaks of Norwalk Virus on
cruise ships, which have sickened thousands of travelers,
Inside Edition boarded one of the afflicted ships,
Carnival Cruise Lines' Fascination, to evaluate sanitary
conditions onboard. Inside Edition sailed in December
2002, just ten days after more than 200 passengers and
crewmembers were stricken, to observe sanitary procedures first
hand and test for potentially illness causing bacteria. On a
report scheduled to air today, Thursday, January 30, Inside
Edition’s Senior Investigative Correspondent, Matt
Meagher reports that passengers were not given information
about the previous outbreak nor warned about procedures to
avoid exposure to the virus.
Nash Ph.D., founder of the American Food Safety Institute,
accompanied Inside Edition aboard the ship. He was at
first, very impressed. The kitchen seemed spotless and the
Fascination's crew worked hard to keep the ship clean. But Dr.
Nash was disturbed by a number of things Inside Edition
observed on board, burgers not served hot, a stateroom vanity
with visible dirt, and a curly black hair in a dessert.
Bartenders repeatedly handled barware and drink ingredients
with bare hands, some soap dispensers in public bathrooms were
empty, and Nash says there was mold on an ice dispenser. “You
don't have to look so hard to see some pretty unsanitary
conditions,” Nash concluded.
Edition also employed the services of an independent
testing facility, HML Laboratories in Indiana, to test for
illness-causing microorganisms. Inside Edition
collected and tested 18 food samples, 2 water samples and one
food contact surface. The findings: out of the 21 samples, two
tested positive for a strain of Staphylococcus aureus that can
cause food poisoning. Four tested positive for E. coli, and
three for fecal streptococcus. The report however takes note of
the fact that the water samples were satisfactory and all
samples were free of Salmonella and Listeria, which also can
cause food poisoning.
Fascination passed its last official sanitation inspection by
the Centers for Disease Control in July 2002. But Inside
Edition learned the CDC inspections are done in port,
sometimes with no passengers on board. Nash believes
inspections should always take place at sea, when ships are
filled with passengers. Nash says what Inside Edition
found is worse than he would expect from many restaurants and
adds a cruise ship, where people are in close contact for an
extended period of time, should be held to a much higher
officials said that the temperatures recorded by Dr. Nash are
not violations of U.S. sanitation or food codes. Carnival also
questioned Dr. Nash’s expertise on cruise ship sanitation.
The company told Inside Edition, “Food handling and
sanitation is strictly and effectively monitored by the CDC”
and said its fleet has “a positive CDC record and our ships
provide one of the cleanest and most sanitary vacations
environments available.” The company also said the
inspections are so intensive and detailed few restaurants would
be able to pass them.