While not always the most appetizing, food provided by on-campus dining facilities is always expected to be at least safe to eat.
But the regularly conducted inspections by the Marion County Health Department are known to reveal some of the complications that result from providing daily meals to an entire student body.
This year alone, C-Club has received 24 health code violations, compared to Residential College dining hall’s 18 and Atherton Union’s 22, up from 19, six and seven from last year, respectively.
“Campus dining services, like with other food-providing establishments, have a standard they must meet,” said John Althardt, public relations coordinator for the Marion County Health Department. “We treat the campus facilities the same way we treat other restaurants. Everyone is held to the same standards.”
In a statement via email, Aramark Dining Services said the following:
“Serving safe, nutritious and quality food is our top priority as we work to deliver great experiences for our customers.
“We have rigorous quality assurance and food safety processes, and we are committed to continuously enhancing them.
“We have regular inspections from the Marion County Public Health Department at all of our
Consistent with our rigorous practices, the issues noted in the inspection reports are all immediately addressed and corrected.”
Althardt said the majority of the violations found on campus are non-critical, a grade given by inspectors based on the potential risk of food contamination or food-related illness.
Because of its number of diners, dining services on campus tend to receive between two to four inspections per year.
Some violations, however, he said are classified as critical.
“There was a situation where food was not being held at a proper temperature, and that problem was corrected immediately,” Althardt said. In fact, most problems were resolved on the spot during the inspection.
“Some violations are more of housekeeping issues. No obstructions to hand sinks, etc.,” Althardt said. “We don’t want to do anything that would discourage someone from washing their hands. These are more educational issues. Once it’s explained, it makes common sense.”
Sophomore exploratory business major Dan Michaels understands this reasoning but says the circumstances are different for students.
“I think the difference between violations here and violations in other restaurants is the availability of options. If a restaurant out in the city is given a bad review or cited some violations, customers can go somewhere else. Here, we don’t have that flexibility,” he said.
Others expressed concerns regarding personal health.
“Having gotten sick last year from what I think was dining hall food, I think it is extremely important for on-campus food services to do the best they can to keep meals safe for students,” sophomore exploratory business major Kevin Patel said.
Other students who hadn’t heard about the violations were a bit unsettled.
“I think these violations will make students feel like the situation is worse than it is since we don’t know what the violations are or what they are for,” sophomore political science major Teresa Brooks said.
Althardt said the potential for fines is possible upon repeated violations.
“There’s a pretty good incentive to keep things going. Food service providers in the county want to have a good relationship with the health department and follow the codes,” Althardt said.
The responsibility for the violations falls on Butler, not the facility or Aramark.
“Ultimately, the university is held responsible,” Althardt said. “Aramark is then responsible to the university. It is in Aramark’s best interest to maintain that, and they take that responsibility very seriously. They have a great relationship with the health department.”
It is because of this great relationship that problems get handled so quickly. “Are there some things that need to be addressed? Yes. Are there things that can be handled on site? It appears so.”
In terms of frequency of inspections, Marion County uses a risk based system.
“If you’ve had violations in the past, you are likely to be inspected more often,” Althardt said. “Those who serve large numbers of people are more likely as well. We keep coming back until all the problems are corrected.”