‘When I pay an average of over $10 a meal I expect quality food and not poisonous meals’

A dining hall at Chapman University (no relation) was closed over the past couple of days after students came down with nausea, vomit and diarrhea. According to The Panther, health authorities believe that the illnesses are linked to a norovirus outbreak.

According to an email sent by Jerry Price, dean of students and vice chancellor for student affairs, the cafeteria will reopen for breakfast on Dec. 7 and throughout the weekend food will be available in the Student Union for students with meal plans.photo

“It doesn’t make me scared necessarily, however it’s a bit concerning since I’m on a 19 meal plan and I get a majority of my meals from the cafeteria,” wrote Michael Anderson, a sophomore television writing and production major. “When I pay an average of over $10 a meal I expect quality food and not poisonous meals.”

Kyler Asato, a freshman creative writing major, had lunch at the cafeteria last Wednesday and then lost his appetite. On Thursday he did not eat until 5:20 p.m. after nearly fainting during his dance class.

Asato said that he ate a sandwich and muffin from the Digital Media Arts Center. He then had a pizza from Doy’s Place which caused him to vomit.

“I went back to my room after around 45 minutes of not being able to move due to lack of energy,” Asato wrote. “Then, I had my friend give me Sprite, and went to sleep around 10. I woke up three times and barfed each time. I also had diarrhea at least four times throughout the day, starting from 11 a.m.”

Sounds nasty.

Brae Surgeoner, Doug and I had a paper published in the September 2009 Journal of Environmental Health about some research we conducted in the Winter of 2006. The study came about because a whole bunch of kids in the University of Guelph’s residence system started puking from an apparent norovirus outbreak. There were lots of handwashing signs up and we wanted to know whether they changed hygiene behavior (especially if kids were using the tools available when entering the cafeteria). Turns out that students weren’t doing as good of a job at hand hygiene as they reported to us.

The blame game: Factory worker lunches in Vietnam edition

According to Thanhnien News, 33 outbreaks resulting in over 2000 cases of foodborne illness have been linked to cheap, work-provided lunches in Vietnam this year, including one a couple of weeks ago. National health officials blame poor local oversight over kitchens.

Nice support from folks that are supposed to work together.

Lunch for workers at a shoe factory in Binh Duong Province is mostly rice and a little pork and vegetables.P1030832

The mass food poisoning suffered by 441 workers at the factory on October 21 was a reminder of the unhealthy factory lunches provided in Vietnam, which has been a major cause of wildcat strikes and the fact that its productivity is among the lowest in the world.

Truong Thi Bich Hanh, vice chairwoman of the Labor Union in Binh Duong, an industrial hub with 150,000 companies, said at least 8 percent of them pay only around 40 cents for a worker’s meal, or less than half the price of a cheap meal at a street eatery.

At least 33 cases of mass food poisoning involving 2,302 people, most of them factory workers, have been reported across the country this year.

Nguyen Thanh Phong, head of the food safety department at the health ministry, said the cost of the meal is too low to ensure quality.

“Low-quality ingredients easily suffer bacterial or toxic contamination,” Phong said, adding that some kitchens even use ingredients that are already spoiled.

He also blamed local authorities for failing to monitor hygiene in factory kitchens, many of which are open for a long time before receiving any food safety and hygiene checks.

Cafeterias in Boston hospitals get failing grades

Boston is home to many of the nation’s best hospitals, but the I-Team discovered some of these institutions may not always be as careful with the food they serve as they are with patient care.

UnknownThe I-Team obtained inspection reports for 12 Boston hospitals and we found several facilities failing on many levels. Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Carney Hospital both failed inspections for not keeping food cold enough. At Dana Farber, inspectors found boiled eggs at 54 degrees, tuna at 53 degrees and chicken at 51 degrees. Carney Hospital also had food items above 50 degrees. According to Boston University nutritionist Joan Salge-Blake, anything higher than 41 degrees is asking for trouble.

Mold this: Conn. students boycott cafeteria

Students at Farmington High School in Connecticut are boycotting their school lunch program this week, accusing the campus food service provider of serving low-quality meals and embarrassing students who can’t afford them.

food.moldOver 500 people have joined a student Facebook group calling for a boycott of Chartwells, the food-service company that replaced the district’s in-house meal program in 2012. The page is full of photos of moldy food allegedly served in the cafeteria, along with some other fairly gross testimonials.

“Freshman are coming in thinking that the garbage they serve and the way they treat us is the norm, but it shouldn’t be,” students wrote in the group’s description. “We can work together and end this now.”

The students drafted a list of demands, including:

• Lower costs per meal for both students and teachers OR larger portions relative to the cost.

• Higher quality food and ingredients.

• Safe and healthy food that is free of mold or hair and is not left out and exposed to cold.

• Limit the reheating and re-serving of leftovers for consecutive days.

• Greater variety to accommodate alternative dietary needs or preferences, such as vegetarian, gluten-free, or others.

Senior Christy Rosario told Boston.com her friends have been frustrated with Chartwells since the company first started working for the district, though the group only recently sprang up to organize the boycott after administrators clamped down on students overcharging their meal accounts.

According to a student handbook available online, students were entitled to charge one meal a day—anywhere from $3 to $3.50—“when lunch money is lost, forgotten or inadvertently overlooked.” That policy was amended to two meals last month without notice to students, though enforcement was lax. After “specific cases of excessive overcharging,” Principal Bill Silva said the school decided to start cracking down.

“A lot of the students were really caught off-guard, really frustrated, and going home hungry,” Rosario said. “The company loses money and the student doesn’t get any food, so no one wins.”

Making matters worse? Hungry kids who couldn’t afford their meals had to watch their food get thrown in the trash. School policy dictates that students with insufficient funds should be provided with an “alternative meal”—a cheese sandwich with milk and a piece of fruit—though Rosario said she knew many who did not receive one.

Superintendent Kathleen Greider said those charges, if true, were “unacceptable.”

South Korea PM vows to improve food safety at school cafeterias

South Korea will prohibit food suppliers that fail to meet certain safety criteria from providing school meals, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won said Wednesday.

belushi.cafeteria“Food suppliers that fail to meet standards set forth by the HACCP system will not be able to enter a bid to provide meals in school cafeterias,” Chung said.

“We also plan on canceling the HACCP license of any supplier that violates food safety measures, even if it’s just a one-time offense,” he added.

Food safety inspections will be conducted later this month at some 7,500 restaurants near popular summer destinations, Chung said.

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown identifies norovirus outbreak, takes steps to limit virus exposure

A few years ago fellow graduate student Brae Surgeoner had a fun idea to collect behavior data in the midst of an outbreak. The University of Guelph was dealing with a bunch of illnesses that seemed to be linked to residence halls and the symptoms looked like norovirus. The local health folks worked with the universities housing group and placed alcohol-based sanitizer at the entrance to one of the cafeterias (which was thought to be ground zero). Looking back, the hand sanitizer step wasn’t the greatest public health intervention (not with commercially available products), but what we wanted to know was whether students heeded the warnings and advice. student-cafeteria-02

By using ethnography, we found that only 17 per cent of the observed students followed the hand hygiene recommendations, but self-reported surveys of the same population showed that 83 per cent of students said that they had been following the guidance (we published the results in the Journal of Environmental Health, abstract below).

Health officials often put up posters and signs and rely on self-reporting to determine whether interventions are effective. People may say they are washing their hands more, but our study showed that the behavior and reports don’t always match up.

Faced with a bunch of students ill with norovirus, the decision-makers running the show at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, according to Global Dispatch, made a good disease management call by canceling all events and closing the cafeteria to limit virus transfer.

Several University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown students have reported an illness–with the symptoms of  fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and general abdominal discomfort, to campus Health Services during the past 48 hours prompting the university to cancel all in-door social events for the weekend. In addition, the decision has been made to suspend cafeteria services at all dining facilities on campus. Instead, prepackaged meals will be available in the Student Union for pick-up.

In an effort to respond to students who feel that they need medical attention, the Office of Health and Counseling will be open on both Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

University Students’ Hand Hygiene Practice During a Gastrointestinal Outbreak in Residence: What They Say They DO and What They Actually Do

Journal of Environmental Health, 72(2):24-28

Brae V. Surgeoner, M.S., Benjamin J. Chapman, Ph.D., Douglas A. Powell, Ph.D.


Published research on outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness has focused primarily on the results of epidemiological and clinical data collected postoutbreak; little research has been done on actual preventative practices during an outbreak. In this study, the authors observed student compliance with hand hygiene recommendations at the height of a suspected norovirus outbreak in a university residence in Ontario, Canada. Data on observed practices was compared to postoutbreak self-report surveys administered to students to examine their beliefs and perceptions about hand hygiene. Observed compliance with prescribed hand hygiene recommendations occurred 17.4% of the time. Despite knowledge of hand hygiene protocols and low compliance, 83.0% of students indicated that they practiced correct hand hygiene during the outbreak. To proactively prepare for future outbreaks, a current and thorough crisis communications and management strategy, targeted at a university student audience and supplemented with proper hand washing tools, should be enacted by residence administration.

6 sick with Salmonella; faith-based food safety at Johns Hopkins

Irony can be ironic: like when students at a big shot medical campus are stricken with Salmonella.

Especially when the administrators of the big shot medical school can’t be bothered to provide sick or concerned students with anything but platitudes.

The Johns Hopkins News-Letter writes that last Saturday, Dean of Student Life Susan Boswell sent an email to Hopkins students informing them of a salmonella outbreak occurring on the Homewood campus.

Six undergraduate students have been diagnosed with salmonella poisoning.

The salmonella cases have spurred an epidemiologic investigation led by the Baltimore City Health Department and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in cooperation with the Student Health and Wellness Center.

The investigation, which includes interrogation of those affected, is ongoing and the source of the salmonella is still unknown.

Kompan Ngasmsnga, Acting Director of the Office of Acute Communicable Diseases in the Baltimore City Health Department, is one of the major players in conducting this investigation to find the source of the salmonella bacteria. “At this point, most of the cases are either freshmen or sophomores, and their commonality is that they ate in the Fresh Food Café,” Ngasmsnga said.

However, this does not mean that students should be wary each time they eat at the Fresh Food Café. “Our students’ health and food safety has always been, and will continue to be, the most important component of our program,” David Furhman, Director of Dining Programs, wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Boswell reaffirmed this in her email when she stated that no new cases had been reported in eight days. Even Joffe sees no problem with eating campus food. “I have no reason to think that eating university food is unsafe,” Joffe wrote. “Personally, I would not hesitate to eat at the FFC, Nolan’s or Levering.”

The salmonella cases will not affect the Fresh Food Café’s relationship with caterer Aramark in the year before their contract expires.

“There is no reason for this issue to affect our relationship with Aramark, now or moving forward,” Furhman wrote. “Aramark’s broad-based and extensive safety and sanitation policies and procedures are designed to safeguard against all food borne issues and illnesses. Those rigorous policies and procedures cover each and every aspect of the food service process, from procurement of food from reputable suppliers, through and including cooking and holding food at proper temperatures.”

Many students, however, have a different take on the issue. As a Hopkins freshman, Henry Bernstein goes to the FFC multiple times a day. “I have no idea how safe the food is.” Bernstein said, “It’s very concerning that people are getting salmonella. There is no place else I can get food.”

Freshman Carly Greenspan agrees. “My issue is that the FFC is where most people go, so a lot of people who have meal plans don’t really have a choice. And if you don’t know what’s in the food you are eating — that’s scary,” Greenspan explained.

Hepatitis A case diagnosed at Canberra school cafeteria

A canteen worker at a Canberra (that’s the capital of Australia) high school has been diagnosed with hepatitis A, sparking a mild health scare.

ACT Health says there is a very low risk to the 1,000 students and 100 staff and Lyneham High School but as a precaution is offering vaccines to anyone who might have eaten from the canteen between October 17 and November 4.

"It can potentially be transmitted through food … (but) the risk to people who have eaten at this canteen is also very low," acting ACT chief health officer Andrew Pengilley told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

Handwashing motivator: Study shows posters can help increase hand hygiene practices

A study by Kansas State University shows posters can make a difference when it comes to hand hygiene in a health care setting.

The research, based on observations of more than 5,000 patrons at a hospital-based cafeteria, shows that an evidence-based informational poster can increase attempts at hand hygiene. The study appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, and was funded by One Health Kansas, a project supported by the Kansas Health Foundation.

The research team included K-State’s Katie Filion, a December 2010 master’s graduate in biomedical science; Kate KuKanich, assistant professor of clinical sciences; Megan Hardigree, a 2008 master’s graduate in kinesiology; and Doug Powell, professor of food safety. Also on the team was Ben Chapman, assistant professor in the department of 4-H youth development and family and consumer sciences at North Carolina State University.

Hand hygiene is important before meals, especially in a hospital cafeteria where patrons may have had recent contact with infectious agents, KuKanich said.

"Few interventions to improve hand hygiene have had measurable success. This study was designed to use a poster intervention to encourage hand hygiene among health care workers and hospital visitors upon entry to a hospital cafeteria," she said.

Over a five-week period, a poster intervention with an accessible hand-sanitizer unit was deployed to improve hand hygiene at the entrance to a hospital cafeteria. An anonymous researcher was able to observe hand hygiene attempts from the adjacent dining area. The study included baseline, intervention and follow-up phases, with each consisting of three randomized days of observation for three hours at lunchtime.

Gains were modest, Powell said. During the 27 hours of observation, 5,551 participants were observed, with hand hygiene attempts increasing from 3.16 per cent to 6.17 per cent.

Hand washing compliance efforts have focused on increasing availability of proper tools for hand hygiene, education and training, and use of prompts such as visual reminders or peer pressure and the presence of others, according to Powell and KuKanich.

"Hand hygiene is still the best way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Unfortunately, many of us don’t wash our hands as often as we should," KuKanich said.

"Those ‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ signs in bathrooms may not be the most effective reminder," Powell said. "While improvements in this study were modest, we have set an evaluation framework to work with informational posters that use more graphical messages and reminders that use a shock-and-shame approach."

An abstract of "Observation-based evaluation of hand hygiene practices and the effects of an intervention at a public hospital cafeteria" is available at http://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553%2810%2900986-7/abstract

Parents outraged; was school breakfast source of widespread barfing at school in Guam?

Would-be epidemiologist and school principal Agnes Camacho figures it was the school breakfast of egg salad and melon that made almost 300 students ill at Marcial A. Sablan Elementary School in Guam.

Sablan told PNC News, "At around 9:45 several students came into the office complaining about stomach aches and they were vomiting and then another 15 minutes several more came in and we said that’s a high number right so we started documenting their vomiting and stomach aches and then another fifteen minutes they were just coming in students were coming in we had a total of 102 students who were registered with the vomiting.”

Anxious parents flooded the schools with phone calls while others came in person to find out if their children had been sent to the hospital.

At Marcial Sablan elementary school hallways were lined with vomit, "It’s just very scary the hallways here this wall this wall behind and both sides were filled with students sitting and then in the nurses office also… and each of them had trash bags and they were all vomiting,” said Camacho.

The food was outsourced from King’s Restaurants. According to Principal Camacho, Public Health arrived and took a sample of the food for testing.