John Arterbury" />
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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Campus dining with a side of grime

There just might be slime in that ice machine.

Health inspection reports from the last two years for on-campus dining facilities obtained by an open-records request revealed a number of lapses in food safety and hygiene.

Listed infractions include dirty soda and ice dispensers, improper food storage techniques, the presence of insects and rodents and sushi stored at inappropriate temperatures.

For a selection of some of the health inspection reports obtained by The Daily Cougar, click here.

Representatives of Aramark, the University’s food-service provider, did not respond to inquiries by press time, and it is unclear how many of the recent violations have been rectified.

A June 2006 inspection of Einstein Bros. Bagels in Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall found baby roaches on the counter, roach "partials" in a milk container, an unclean ice machine, cream cheese cross-contaminated with fish products, chemical spray stored near food and a walk-in cooler operating at room temperature because of a broken thermometer.

One demerit in the inspection simply noted: "roaches everywhere."

Director of Custodial Services Alex Alexander with Plant Operations said food establishments in buildings intended as office or classroom space pose unique problems.

"When they add food-service arrangements like Einstein’s, it creates a food-waste problem that we don’t always have a plan to deal with," he said. "But when you get a bag of trash full of old food and milk we have to treat it completely differently. That causes everything from cats wanting to dig in the trash, and things start to smell."

Although Plant Operations is responsible for general campus animal and pest control, food-service operations are in charge of their own, Alexander said.

An October 2006 inspection at the bagel shop found no roaches, but the store was cited for having a dirty counter, dirty baking trays and a dirty floor, among other violations.

Einstein Bros. Bagels wasn’t the only location suffering from infestation issues in the period surveyed from June 2006 to December 2007.

Rodent droppings and roaches were found in a December 2007 inspection of The Moody Towers’ cafeteria kitchen.

Alexander said the Towers have historically had pest problems, and Plant Operations has provided assistance to Residential Life and Housing in dealing with them.

"There’s been issues there," he said. "We’ve gotten involved in some mice issues around Moody Towers, and we did some things to help them out."

An October 2006 inspection of the Law Center Subway revealed a dirty soda dispenser, a lack of temperature logs in nearly all refrigeration units, a cooler with mold, a dirty ice machine, a "filthy" kitchen floor and a lack of a certified food-safety manager on duty, as required by law.

A follow-up inspection the next month yielded a worse score for the Subway, which had 18 violations, the most of any campus dining facility in the period.

In that time frame, the Subway transferred management to Brigance Investments LP, which reports to Aramark.

Employees were found to have been leaving ingredients on the sandwich assembly line overnight rather than returning them to the walk-in cooler, as required by law, according to the report.

In these conditions, meat, sauces and other toppings were stored overnight at temperatures of up to 60 F, the report said.

Such temperatures fall into the "danger zone," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, as bacteria rapidly increase in temperatures above 40 F.

According to the report, sanitary conditions for the display cooler were "poor at best" and food scales were also left on the floor.

Brigance Investments LP partner Myla Brigance said that a lack of employee discipline fostered a negligent atmosphere. "(It was) just employees doing what they want to do. They’d been leaving the sandwich line out," Brigance said. "If you go there now, you’ll notice I have a whole new staff. They put all the food in the walk-in cooler."

Brigance said the food mishaps "greatly contributed" to the termination of staff members, and she now requires that a certified food-safety manager be present at all times.

Sports venues weren’t exempt from alarming results.

A dead mouse was found in a January 2007 inspection of Hofheinz Pavilion’s concessions in addition to spoiled Papa John’s Pizza products. Pretzel and hot dog grills in some concessions were left dirty after use, and some employees were found not using hair restraints.

Inspections between March and June 2007 at Robertson Stadium discovered a lack of paper towels at many concession stands and the presence of roaches at one.

Alexander said Plant Operations had not heard of roach issues at Robertson, but the Athletics Department had enlisted it to help with other pest-related issues.

"Because Robertson is so open we have to fight the bird issue a lot," he said. "Pigeons will get in there, and pigeons present a whole bunch of problems."

Plant Operations placed barbs on awnings and other ledges to discourage pigeons, Alexander said.

Other dining facilities fell prey to pest invasion or improperly stored food as well.

Sushi at AFC Sushi in the University Center during a November 2007 inspection was not displayed at the correct temperature, and no thermometer was present to monitor the food. A thermometer has since been added to the display.

An inspection in October 2007 of the UC’s kitchen showed lapses in grill cleanliness, and ice machines lacked maintenance logs "in accordance to code." Insect traces were found in the dishwasher machine cover.

The Real Food on Campus cafeteria locations performed better than other dining facilities, but they were not exempt from violations, which included a lack of temperature logs on refrigeration.

Most inspectors in the reports recommended better employee hygiene, paying more attention to food temperatures and consistent dating and inventory of food products as ways of best preventing violations.

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