By Samantha Samant
Students were notified of a possible norovirus outbreak on campus via an email from the Center for Healthy Living on Nov. 18. Several students reported experiences of food poisoning-like illness after eating the food served at the Winnick Student Center. As the Pioneer reported in its Nov. 28 issue, some students called the Nassau County Health Department, which launched an investigation.
Mary Ellen Laurain, a representative from the Nassau County Health Department’s PR team, confirmed that a handful of students reported illness. The number of ill students, she stated, “was not clear as some were hear- say and others were calling in concerned.” The Health Department’s investigation was “not conclusive [as to] what the illness was.”
A spokesperson for the corporate leadership of Aramark responded to The Pioneer’s inquiries via email:
“Serving safe, nutritious and quality food is our top priority. We continue to have ongoing, rigorous training and quality assurance processes to ensure we meet very high standards. Consistent with our rigorous practices, the issues noted in the inspection reports were all immediately addressed and corrected. We have rigorous quality assurance and food safety processes and we are committed to continuously enhancing them. As stewards of food safety, our employees and managers: are trained to actively promote and maintain food safety; review proper food preparation and safety procedures during regular meetings that occur before each service; prepare food according to recipes and production processes that specify safe preparation, handling and service; use quality control processes that govern food safety practices; monitor their locations’ temperature logs, sanitation schedules and employee hygiene standards during each service, ensure their locations comply with all federal, state and local health codes.”
Despite the precautions being taken by Aramark, many students who live on campus have stopped eating at Winnick.
Dominique Williams, a junior health sciences major who lives on campus, is one of those students. “My team (women’s basketball) used to go to Winnick during common hour and after practices. But no one on my team has been back because we don’t wanna get sick,” she said. Williams also hasn’t been to Subway or Twisted Taco because she is concerned about the quality.
Kayla McCullough, a senior musical theater major and resident, expressed similar sentiments. “I was never really fond of it [Winnick],” she said. “I found that it didn’t really meet up to the standards of food that tastes good. Nor did it meet up to the health standards; a few times I found raw meat. I don’t eat red meat or pork, but the chicken was always chewy and kinda chunky which chicken shouldn’t be chunky. The salad bar was always soggy and kind of old and it looked a little expired to me. It made me sick; actually I don’t eat there anymore because I got a little sick from it,” McCullough said.
McCullough is excited about the health inspection at Winnick. McCullough feels that if they conducted health inspections on a regular basis, “maybe I would have not been taken off the meal plan because the food would have met health standards and I wouldn’t have gotten sick in the first place.”
Other students have continued to eat at Winnick. Jim Defalco, a graduate student in clinical lab science, continues to dine at Winnick although he doesn’t dorm on campus. “It’s pretty good,” he said. “I’ve been to a couple of college campuses over the years and I’d say it’s definitely above average. I have had better especially in the pizza department. But in general their cold foods and their hot foods are actually really good,” Defalco said.
Defalco has never gotten sick from food at Winnick. “I heard there was something going around, [so] I took precautions to not really eat open food,” Defalco explained. He thinks the facility is clean and isn’t worried about Aramark failing the health inspection, but also recommends yearly inspections.