Nfld. & Labrador

Aramark says MUN dining hall in compliance with safety, sanitation rules

Cafeteria food giant Aramark says it has brought in a team of food safety experts to assess its operations at Memorial University in St. John’s after student complaints of poor quality and uncooked food boiled over earlier this week.

Unversity says it will engage an independent company to do health, safety audit

More than 150 Memorial University students attended a meeting on campus in St. John's to complain about the quality of food they are being served in university dining rooms. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)
MUN student Marley Kingston says she became violently ill after eating dining room food at the university's campus in St. John's. (submitted)
Cafeteria food giant Aramark says it has brought in a team of food safety experts, including one of its head chefs, to assess its operations at Memorial University in St. John’s after student complaints of poor quality and uncooked food boiled over earlier this week.

"We also requested that Service NL, the provincial health authority, conduct an inspection of our facilities," an Aramark spokesperson wrote in a statement to the CBC. 

According to the company, the dining hall was found to be in compliance with proper safety and sanitation standards.

The statement also noted that none of the food issues were brought to Aramark's attention before the social media eruption.

On Wednesday night, the social media site Twitter erupted as more than 150 students attended a meeting on campus in St. John's.

Many voiced their displeasure at the company with the hashtag #StopAramark.

Meanwhile, Memorial University issued a statement Thursday, saying that it has requested an extra inspection from the province's Department of Health and Community Services.

The results from the inspection on Wednesday were deemed "satisfactory," according to the MUN statement.

The university is also planning to engage an independent company to carry out a health and safety audit in the coming weeks.

MUN is working with student representatives and Aramark to make a residence dining committee, with the intent of improving communication in relation to food matters.

Gander mother sends extra food

Lucille Field's daughter is a first-year student at MUN.

Along with the $2,200 the family spends per semester to cover mandatory dining hall costs, the mother also sends in extra food — chili, soups and a variety of snacks.

The reason? She has a big problem with the meals her daughter's supposed to eat.

"There have been times when she's been served undercooked food," said Field.

"I know that she's been served raw chicken."

Field said when it comes to Aramark's meals, students are far from getting what they're paying for.

"Most of these kids in there have student loans and this is what their student loans are going to pay for," she said.

"This certainly is not good value for their money."

Aramark a giant company

In 2013, Aramark was listed by Forbes as America's 20th largest private company with more than $13 Billion in sales and 267,000 employees.

It provides food, facilities and uniform services to universities, hospitals, businesses and prisons.  

In 2014, John Oliver, host of HBO's satirical news program Last Week Tonight lambasted Aramark for maggot-infested food it served in Michigan prisons.

“The only time you are happy to hear the words ‘maggots were found’ is when you are a maggot whose family was lost at sea,” said Oliver.

Outside of universities and prisons, you can also taste Aramark's food in professional sports stadiums.

The company provides food services to 130 premier sports stadiums, including the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

During Wednesday's meeting, many students described the food service as disgusting.

There's been a call for changes after many pictures were published online showing mouldy and under-cooked food.

One photo featured a dead fly as a side dish. 

Student refuses to eat at dining hall

Student Marley Kingston moved to St. John's from New Brunswick. She pays more than $2000 dollars a year for a meal plan on campus, but she doesn't eat there.

Kingston says she no longer trusts the dining room food.

"I came back from lunch one day and I was seriously sick. I was throwing up and I ended up throwing up blood and I had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance," she said.

Kingston said she didn't complain to the food company or the university.

The students are calling on Aramark to improve the quality of the food it serves.

The university promised in a statement to media that it is going to rigorously review the quality of the meals students are being served.

With files from Adam Walsh and Mark Quinn

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