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Fly strips hanging over food preparation areas; cans of clam chowder stored in restrooms; mold in ice machines; fish fillets thawing on the counter in stagnant water; and foul, noxious odors coming from grease traps are just some of the more than 70 health and food code violations the state Department of Health recently found at concession stands at Rhode Islandâ€™s three state beaches - Misquamicut, Scarborough and Roger Wheeler, The Call and The Times has learned.
They are the same beach concessions that are the focus of an ongoing investigation by state police who are probing the stateâ€™s awarding of a $1.5 million contract to David Caprio, former chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, to provide and handle the concessions. According to news reports, Rep. Peter Palumbo (D-Cranston) won the concessions contract but then backed out, prompting the state to award the contract to Caprio. After Caprio won the contract, he chose Palumbo â€“ his friend - to manage all of the stands under the business name Beachcomber Concessions.
On Tuesday, a day after news of the police investigation broke, Caprio, a former state representative from Narragansett, resigned as chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party.
According to inspection reports obtained by The Call and The Times, the Rhode Island Department of Heathâ€™s Office of Food Protection conducted a total of five inspections at the concession stands, including three inspections at Misquamicut in Westerly on July 2, 17 and 29; once at Scarborough in Narragansett on July 29; and once at Roger Wheeler in Narragansett on July 30.
There were a total of 32 violations discovered at Misquamicut; 25 at Scarborough; and 16 violations at Roger Wheeler.
All totaled, inspectors found 73 food code violations among the three concession stands, which ranged from a lack of thermometers in refrigeration units to staff not wearing hair restraints.
A spokeswoman for the health department declined to say what triggered the inspections, but did say that Beachcomber Concessions is aware of the violations and was working to resolve them by Friday.
Neither Caprio nor Palumbo could be reached for comment Thursday.
â€śTheir consultant, who has been excellent in the past, says all of the facilities will be in compliance by the end of the day (Thursday),â€ť said Christina Batastini, the Rhode Island Department of Healthâ€™s chief officer of health promotion. â€śWe will verify this in the morning (Friday).â€ť
The Department of Health typically conducts inspections when a new establishment is opened, a complaint is filed, or most often, for unannounced inspections. Violations can range from minor observations to more serious transgressions, including cross contamination, lack of proper food storage, employees not wearing gloves when handling ready-to-eat food, hand washing, or sick employees at work â€“ all of which can cause foodborne illnesses.
According to state health officials, epidemiological outbreak data has identified five major risk factors related to employee behaviors and preparation practices in retail and food service establishments as contributing to foodborne illness, including:
*Improper holding temperatures.
*Inadequate cooking, such as undercooking raw shell eggs and ground beef.
*Food from unsafe sources.
*Poor personal hygiene.
(Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7)