Amtrak's northeast Washington commissary, which provides snacks and food for passenger trains, was closed over the weekend after federal inspectors found "gross insanitation" there last Friday, officials confirmed yesterday.
The commissary, at 1215 3d St., NE, provides sandwiches and other prepared food for snack bars and dining car service for long-haul Amtrak trains from Washington to both Chicago and Montreal. Food for Metroliners and other New York trains comes from other sources, an Amtrak spokesman said.
When inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) walked in unannounced Friday, they found "gross insanitation that reflected almost a total lack of a quality control system," according to Dr. Norman Kramer, director of compliance for the FDA's Baltimore District.
Among other things, it was learned, the inspectors found a load of outdated sandwiches that had been sitting unrefrigerated on an outdoor loading dock for several days. "It was sloppy and we're going to tighten up," said Amtrak spokesman Brian Duff.
That was what Duff reported after a second set of reporter inquiries. After the first set, he said he had been told by Amtrak food supervisors thatthe inspection had come just shortly after the Marriott Corp. had dumped equipment and a load of outdated sandwiches at the commissary.
Marriott's contract to provide sandwiches had expired on Nov. 2, Duff said, that was the reason equipment was being returned.
However, a spokesman for Marriott food services said "We made no deliveried of food after Nov. 1." Amtrak's Duff, when asked about that, contacted the commissary people again and said that to their best recollection the sandwiches had been delivered on Nov. 2. In any event, the sandwiches were on the dock for several days.
The FDA's Kramer, while refusing to specify exactly what his inspectors found because of a "continuing investigation" said "the biggest problem in my opinion - and this is preliminary - is that there is a total lack of a sanitary control system throughout the system . . . There was a total breakdown."
The commissary officials asked for a new inspection, which they passed on Monday, both sides agreed. In the meantime, food for the trains the commissary serves was brought to Washington from other Amtrak facilities, Duff said.
Although the FDA did not formally close the commissary, Kramer said, the commissary manager agreed to close after the inspectors arrived.
The FDA can seek both criminal and civil penalties, but Kramer said it was "premature" to discuss such possibilities.
Duff said that some of the confusion over the food handling apparently occurred because of the change-over in contractors from Marriott to Skychef.