Dining Services addresses pest problem

(A screenshot of a Snapchat video that captured the mouse in the Dining Commons. Photo from @KelseyLeora825.)

Throughout the fall semester, students have encountered pests such as flies or mice in the McCarthy Center Dining Commons.

On Oct. 21, at approximately 6:20 p.m., junior Kelsey Fernandes and a group of friends spotted a mouse in the Dining Commons. They were sitting by the cereal and bagel station when, according to Fernandes, she and her friends saw it run across the floor.

She was able to record a video of the mouse with her phone.

“I thought, ‘Oh man, this dining hall is really going downhill,’” said Fernandes.

She said a Sodexo employee caught the mouse in a cardboard box and took it outside.

Fernandes said Sodexo should make a better effort to keep “things more sanitary.”

One morning, senior Samantha Chandler went to the Dining Commons for breakfast. While there, she used the iced tea dispenser. She said when she pulled the lever, a large mass of fruit flies poured into her cup.

“I must have been the first person to use that machine that morning,” she said. “You’d think they clean out or cover the nozzles at the end of the day.”

Ralph Eddy, director of Dining Services, said, “A sighting may not necessarily be indicative of a problem in a particular area. The pest, in many cases, may just be passing through. … When food or beverages are left out or not disposed of properly, they can serve as attractants for pests.”

Eddy said the pest issue “is not related solely to Dining Services. The McCarthy Center is a large building, only a portion of which is directly under the control of Dining Services operations.”

He said a major cause of the pest problem is that not all entrances to the McCarthy Center are outfitted with vestibules. “If entryways are kept open for an extended period of time, insects are likely to find their way inside and seek out sources of food, of which there are an abundance in the Dining Commons. People that use all of the spaces in the building can also play a role.”

Eddy said Dining Services has a “comprehensive safety and sanitation program.” One aspect of this program is the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan.

Under the IPM, Dining Services hires a licensed contractor who “focuses on the avoidance, monitoring, prevention and suppression of pests.” If need be, the IPM contractor may also implement pesticides “in a manner that minimizes risk to the public and the environment,” said Eddy.

He added, “An IPM that is managed by a licensed pest control contractor is one of the items that the Board of Health reviews on their inspections.”

Each year, Dining Services spends “tens of thousands of dollars” on pest control for the dining areas in The McCarthy Center alone, said Eddy.

“The costs are not broken down by specific service or treatment provided,” said Eddy, “but rather, they are a fee paid for a maintenance contract which encompasses all services provided and all locations covered.”

According to Eddy, the last bi-annual Board of Health inspection the Dining Commons received was earlier this semester.

These are “surprise inspections,” said Eddy. Dining Services is “never certain when they might be conducted.”

Eddy said, “We welcome health inspections, and when they reveal issues that are not up to specific standards, we take immediate action to address those issues, often before inspectors leave the location.”

This was the case with an inspection in 2014 during which Dining Services received 12 infractions.

The Gatepost asked Eddy for the results of the most recent health inspection, but Eddy did not provide that information. The information has been requested from the Framingham Board of Health and according to Massachusetts law, it has ten business days to respond.

“Framingham does not provide letter grades for health inspections,” Eddy said.

In addition to these bi-annual inspections, Dining Services also conducts “daily, weekly and monthly self-audits as part of our HACCP program and also contracts with EcoSure, a third-party auditor, to conduct unannounced safety and sanitation inspections.”

According to the FDA, HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point and is “a management system in which food safety is addressed” by analyzing various factors regarding the shipping, production and serving of food.

Senior and Sodexo employee Benjamin Montemurro said all Sodexo employees are required to attend weekly and monthly training sessions. The topics of these sessions vary.

According to Montemurro, none of the trainings he has attended during his employment have been on the topic of pest control and avoidance.

Senior Raysam Donkoh-Halm said he told a Dining Services employee he saw a fly on a slice of cheese at the sandwich station.

He said the employee did not throw out the cheese and told him, “There’s nothing we can do about the flies.”

“Something about the employee’s attitude just made me question if the higher-ups would even care,” he added.

Freshman Kayla Nett said she is concerned with the flies in the Dining Commons. She said if they persist, she’d report it to Dining Services management.

She added, “It’s where people eat, after all.”

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