Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s exclusive Palm Beach country club where the US president has an increasing fondness for entertaining world leaders with dinner and diplomacy, has been cited for a number of serious food safety violations by Florida’s restaurant inspectors.
During a routine visit in January, just days before Trump hosted a now infamous meal on the terrace with the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, inspectors found three “high priority” violations, including offering diners potentially parasitic raw fish and storing meat in broken coolers at too high a temperature.
Ten other noted violations, which include the presence of rusty shelves in a walk-in cooler and kitchen staff being unable to sanitise their hands properly because of an absence of hot water at sinks, were deemed less serious under Florida’s stringent food safety regulations, yet still damaging to the reputation of the upmarket club that charges a $200,000 initiation fee, and $14,000 a year for membership.
The multiple violations from the 26 January inspection visit are described in a recently published report on the Florida department of business and regulation’s website, and uncovered by the Miami Herald on Wednesday.
According to the report, almost all of the violations were immediately corrected. In the case of the refrigerators, in which poultry, duck, beef and ham were recorded at “potentially hazardous” temperatures up to 16F warmer than the required 41F maximum, Mar-a-Lago staff told the inspectors that one cooler had been incorrectly set to defrost, and called a technician to restore the correct temperature.
The inspectors also wrote that “nonexempt fish offered raw or undercooked has not undergone proper parasite destruction”. They stated the violation had been “corrected on-site” by kitchen staff either fully cooking or discarding the fish.
The more minor hygiene infractions included a food preparer not wearing a hairnet and another employee drinking from an open container in a food preparation area.
State inspectors concluded that Mar-a-Lago’s kitchen did meet minimum standards.
But the columnist Jose Lambiet, who wrote the Miami Herald report, told the Guardian in February that he had never been a fan of the catering at Mar-a-Lago. Trump entertained the Chinese premier, Xi Jinping, there last weekend, and will be spending the upcoming Easter break on his seventh visit “home” since his inauguration 11 weeks ago.
“The food is borderline cafeteria food,” Lambiet said. “The food I got at Mar-a-Lago over the years was sometimes embarrassing. At one point we had lamb, but it wasn’t lamb that you cut in slices and that melts in your mouth, it was like lamb over a bone. [They’re], like, in their tuxedos, eating bones with a little bit of lamb on it.
“You should never be able to go to a party at Mar-a-Lago with subpar food, and it happens a lot.”
Lambiet noted that the club had only two violations in 2015. The increase could be explained in part, he believes, because Trump as president no longer has the time to personally supervise his kitchen staff.
“He’s a hands-on guy, he goes in the kitchens, he goes and makes sure everyone’s served. He’s hands-on when it comes to this kind of business, when it comes to Mar-a-Lago,” Lambiet said.
Bernd Lembcke, Mar-a-Lago’s managing director, did not return the Guardian’s call seeking comment.