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I-Team: Cafeterias In Boston Hospitals Get Failing Grades

BOSTON (CBS) -- Boston is home to many of the nation's best hospitals, but the I-Team discovered some of these institutions may not always be as careful with the food they serve as they are with patient care.

The I-Team obtained inspection reports for 12 Boston hospitals and we found several facilities failing on many levels.

Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Carney Hospital both failed inspections for not keeping food cold enough. At Dana Farber, inspectors found boiled eggs at 54 degrees, tuna at 53 degrees and chicken at 51 degrees. Carney Hospital also had food items above 50 degrees.

According to Boston University nutritionist Joan Salge-Blake, anything higher than 41 degrees is asking for trouble.

"That's called the danger zone," she explained. "That's the temperature where the bacteria will multiply more rapidly. You don't want that."

You would also expect hospitals to make hand washing a priority, but Dana Farber and Tufts were cited for having hand washing sinks that were blocked, or not working. Dirty hands are a known risk factor for spreading dangerous germs.

"Especially in a hospital situation where the patients, their immune systems may not be working up to the levels they should be," Salge-Blake said.

Inspectors also witnessed food service workers at Tufts failing to wash their hands before putting gloves on, which according to Salge-Blake, is more of a problem than you might think. She demonstrated how putting gloves on with dirty hands would contaminate the sterile surface of the gloves.

While not considered critical violations, St. Elizabeth's Hospital and Tufts were cited for having flies in the kitchen.

"When you start seeing flies, you know something is wrong," Salge-Blake said.

Several hospitals were also cited for having worn cutting boards. While not a critical violation, a cutting board with deep grooves can be difficult to clean and should be replaced because bacteria can get caught in the grooves and multiply.

None of the hospitals would talk to the I-Team on camera, but in separate statements, they all said food safety is a priority for patients and visitors and violations were immediately addressed.

Experts agree that even with the violations, hospital kitchens are probably cleaner than the average home kitchen, but most of the people we talked said that's not good enough.

"If they are failing health standards that we expect, that sounds pretty scary," one woman told us.

"I think they should be held at the same standards they are for giving care to patients," another woman said.


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