Food Poisoning At the Caf Goes Unreported

Students who have eaten in Point Loma Nazarene University’s cafeteria know that when walking through those double doors and glancing at the menus on the TV screens, a side of uncertainty comes with their meal. After deciding on a plate of breakfast, lunch, or dinner, some leave without feeling full or even feeling a bit sick. So what should a student do when they do get sick from a caf meal? 

In the past few weeks there have been stories floating around about cases of food poisoning from meals at the PLNU cafeteria. Sydney Mcfadden, a third year student at PLNU, became ill on Jan. 22. Another student, a second year Christian studies major who wishes to remain anonymous, got it the same day. A week prior, an additional student, a sophomore Nursing major, also wishing to remain anonymous, stated they got food poisoning on Jan. 11. 

Because of their illnesses, each of these students were sick for a few days and fell behind on their assignments for the week; some students even had to miss a few classes. 

“I missed class on Monday because I felt exhausted from the dehydration and I got behind on my readings for the week,” Mcfadden said in an email interview with The Point.

Of the three students interviewed by The Point, all of them said that they are now cautious when choosing the food they eat at the caf. 

“It makes me not want to go to the caf at all and I have to really limit myself on the options there,” said the second year Nursing student anonymously. 

Each student said they chose the most limited meal plan due to their opinion of the caf and its quality of food. 

“It’s kind of disappointing how much we pay for the quality we receive,” Mcfadden said. 

Mcfadden said that she expected to get sick from caf food eventually and wishes there were clear directions on how to report these incidents. 

“There really isn’t a great system that I’ve seen to report something like this and the surveys provided aren’t really heard of.” 

Tim Fessler, general manager of PLNU dining and an employee of Sodexo, said “We’re not aware of any cases… but we sure would want to know what’s going on so action can be taken.” 

Student health and nourishment is a top priority for the caf team, according to Fessler, so when issues like this arise they want to hear about it. 

“If students really believe that an illness is caf food related, it needs to be investigated,” said Fessler. 

Fessler said that the caf staff typically works with the Wellness Center when cases like this occur. “I’m assuming the process would be that a student would go to the Wellness Center and there would be a form to fill out on food related illness,” Fessler said. 

However, there seems to be a lack of communication about how to complete this process, according to Mcfadden. 

“I didn’t report my case because I didn’t know where to,” said Mcfadden. 

A longtime employee of the Wellness Center said they have never seen a food poisoning report filed in their 20+ years of working there. 

Dr. Jen King, the lead clinician and medical director at PLNU said in an email interview that the Wellness Center does not accept formal food poisoning complaints. 

“We see patients who have gastrointestinal complaints, and if we see a trend or a cluster of similar complaints we follow the necessary protocol in partnership with the county of San Diego to make a formal report. In the last 10 years, we have only registered noroviruses as outbreaks and have only rarely seen true food poisoning,” said Dr. King. 

Fessler encourages students to reach out to PLNU dining so that issues can be resolved.

“We’ve got a group of people here who really care about the students and this community. Students live here and this is where they have to eat, so it’s a win win for all of us if we do it well. As much communication as we can get about making improvements are welcome,” Fessler said.
If there are any comments or suggestions on food related illnesses, how to improve the dining experience, or a meal you enjoy at the caf please send an email to Timothy.Fessler@sodexo.com. If you think you have experiences food poisoning from the caf register your here: https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/deh/fhd/food/foodborneepidemiology.html

Written By: Claire Downey