The Student Life Committee of the Student Government Association (SGA) received a report from a student a few weeks ago that the lettuce on campus contains bacteria.
Michelle Pan, SGA Student Life Committee chairwoman and a sophomore double majoring in psychology and economics on track to marketing, provided information about the situation. “The bubbles (found on the lettuce) are actually gas bubbles that are associated with little tiny red dots called colonies,” Pan said via email. “There was growth on the gas bubbles that indicates the presence of coliform bacteria.”
Coliform bacteria is, “a large group of bacteria inhabiting the intestinal tract of humans and animals that may cause disease and whose presence in water is an indicator of faecal pollution,” according to Dictionary.com.
Due to the numerous complaints received from students, Pan spoke with Gourmet Dining Services (GDS) representatives Michael Garcia, director of Business Affairs, and Alfred Frungillo, Gourmet Dining chairman.
“They said that the items tested, like the romaine lettuce, comes triple washed and in vacuum safe bags. However, the results will be sent to a chemist to be examined more thoroughly and a message will be sent to the growers,” Pan said.
Garcia discussed the results of the test, which was conducted on March 6. “In response to student requests, Compass/GDS hired Sani-Pure Food Laboratories to conduct (laboratory) testing of the lettuce for coliform and E coli. The testing was witnessed by the Essex County Health Department,” Garcia said via email. “The industry standard threshold is 10 CFU/g (colony-forming units per grams); all lettuce tested came back with less than 10 CFU/g.”
In response to student’s concerns, Pan said, “GDS and SHU Administration have (been effective) by conducting lab tests to ensure that the salad is safe to eat. They took immediate action once the issue was brought up.”
Diane Lynch, director of Health Services, shared her knowledge of students’ illnesses in recent weeks. “We have had students come in expressing concerns regarding food borne illness but their symptoms seemed more consistent with viral gastroenteritis. In other words, we see a pattern where it is likely that the illness is spreading person to person versus a large number of cases in one day,” Lynch said in an email interview. “Viral gastroenteritis presents with many of the same symptoms that people associate with food bourne illness: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain.”
Jennifer Hobeika, a sophomore nursing major who lives in Serra Hall, said that as a vegetarian, the salad at the cafeteria is a key part of her diet. “Although we don’t get the freshest vegetables or the best quality things, I try to make the most out of it and try to switch up the ingredients of my salads,” she said.
Some students suggested improvements that GDS can make.
Emani Miles, a freshman political science major, said, “The salad and fruit just aren’t fresh. I had grilled chicken once that was green, so there is a lot that can be improved. Also, I’m allergic to tree nuts and when I asked a GDS employee whether there were any nuts in the granola, he said there weren’t any nuts but when I tasted it there were.”
Richel Lartey, a junior biology major, said, “I’m normally fine with the salad and I eat it. I feel like there are more things for the cafe to improve on, though, like more vegan options. I have residents who are vegans and they can’t find much to eat at all, but they’re paying for a meal plan.”
Kaitlyn Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.