Dining hall health violations typical, says Board of Health director

A CBS Boston article Wednesday reported nine critical health inspection violations in the FSU dining hall, including the presence of fruit flies and rodent droppings, sparking student concern on social media.

The inspection, facilitated by the Framingham Health Department, took place on May 7, 2014, and cited 12 violations total, three of them labeled non-critical. Framingham Dining Services were required to correct all of the critical violations immediately and the non-critical violations within 14 days.

The two violations that were featured in the CBS article were “a basement salad prep area which was filled with flies” and another area where rodent droppings were found.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health report, the rodent droppings were found “along walls” and “on lower shelves,” and the flies were “consistent with either fruit or phord flies.”

According to Director of Dining Services Ralph Eddy, Sodexo requires an integrated pest management program, which is run by Braman, a company that is “on site twice a month. We spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on a pest management program to avoid any of those issues,” Eddy said.

“In terms of the mouse droppings, those were found in a very inconspicuous location in our dry goods store room. They were not in an active food preparation area. And there were no signs whatsoever of any
activities of the mice in the food itself.”

He added there were several holes found inside the building, likely due to age of the building and the recent construction in the dining hall, which the mice may have used to enter the building. “Facilities were very quick to seal up the holes inside the building.”

Eddy said, “And there was no active mice at the time. It could have been something that occurred much earlier than that.”

Some of the other critical violations included rinsing garbanzo beans in a sink with the garbage disposal, chicken which was being kept six degrees higher than the regulation temperature of 41 degrees, two locations in which paper towels were not provided near a sink, tofu which was being kept at 54 degrees rather than 41 degrees, a sink which used to be regulation that was found to be a violation because the faucet was detachable and an allergy statement sign did not display the regulated statement.

The non-critical violations were an odor noted from the dish room floor due to poor drainage, sanitizer test strips which were not available at a sanitizer test station even though the log was being kept and boxes of dried beans which were not properly sealed after opening.

A violation is considered critical when it could be “related to foodborne illness,” according to the inspection report.

Interim Health Director at the Framingham Health Department Roberto Santamaría said it’s typical of a kitchen the size of FSU’s dining services to receive five to 15 critical violations in an inspection.

“For example,” Santamaría said, “when you’re holding food hot, when you have a hot buffet, it has to be held at 140 degrees – above 140 degrees. We have to, by law, write up a critical violation even if that food is at 139 degrees. And we have to write it for every single food we find it in.”

He said, personally speaking, that he doesn’t think these violations are anything to be concerned about. He said almost all of the violations either happened right before the inspection or are out of the company’s control.

“From a sanitary perspective, we need to make sure they are 100 percent compliant. And we strive for excellence in the Health Department.”

He added, “Sodexo does do really good food handling practices.”

According to FSU President F. Javier Cevallos, the town of Framingham’s Health Department conducts inspections routinely, but the time between inspections varies from six months to over a year, “depending on how overburdened or overworked they are.” The dining staff is not alerted when the inspectors will arrive.

Eddy added that Sodexo hires a third-party inspection company, the National Sanitation Foundation, to inspect and certify “any piece of food service equipment, be it a pan or storage equipment” on an annual basis.
Cevallos said, “We take the safety of our students very seriously.”

He added, “You know, I eat there as well, as you do. And I don’t want to have any kind of food that is not healthy, and I know Ralph [Eddy] takes great personal pride in how clean and how safe our food is.”

A Sodexo supervisor who asked to remain anonymous said that this report “stinks” for students and is “horrible” for the workers as well. “We don’t want there to be mouse droppings or fruit flies either,” he said.

He added while he hasn’t personally seen a mouse or rodent droppings in the dining services area, there is a log in which the workers can make note of any rodent sightings that do occur.

“We do our best,” he said.

Dan Cabral, a senior communication arts major who used to work for Sodexo, said he had never seen evidence of rodents either, but “I did see moldy bread once. I just threw it out. That can happen anywhere.”

He added that he hopes violations liek these don’t happen again.

Posts on the anonymous social media site Yik Yak showed student concern about the report. Some posts called for student boycotts of the dining hall. One post asked students to “not eat on campus tomorrow if you do not support their behavior.”

Another student posted, “You can’t make the cafe [sic] lose money FYI by boycotting; you already paid for your meal plan.”

Some posts asked for “compensation” for their meal plan. Others used harsh language and claimed the students wanted to transfer out of FSU.

Alec Kotikian, a freshman finance major, said the report “definitely made me uncomfortable.”

Michey Wagnac, a junior psychology major said she often eats at the mall where she works, even though she has a meal plan. She added, “There’s a lot of staff working there. This shouldn’t be happening.”

Junior English major Jessica Whapham said, “It doesn’t surprise me.” She added that she mostly eats from the Snack Bar, which has prepackaged food, “so I don’t have to worry as much.”

Nicole Manning, an undeclared freshman, said, “I watch what I’m eating more now,” but that she will still eat at the dining hall because, she said, “I don’t have a choice.”

Freshman history major Brianna Santry said the incident seemed “so secretive. The school could have handled it better.”

Rachel Flaherty said she thought the discovery of rodent droppings and flies were “gross, but it happens.” She added that she thought the administration “should have said how they fixed the problems.”

Emma Quinn, a freshman business major, said, “They found the issue and fixed it. A lot of other schools have the same problem. It’s not that big of a deal.”