Food Recalls and Safety Alerts for WCU

What could peanut butter and spinach possibly have in common? According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, February of this year sparked the rise of food contamination awareness by implementing a recall.

Western Carolina University has seen its fare share of food recalls in the past year. Donna Stephens, Einstein’s Bagel manager, remarked that the peanut butter recall was one of the “biggest recalls…[she]…[had]…ever seen.”

University M.D. Donald Carringer states that the basic symptom of infection from a contaminated food source is watery diarrhea. Other symptoms include cramps, fever, decreased urination and, in more severe cases, decreased mental status.

Unfortunately mini mester student’s, faculty and staff are also victims of the consequences set by infection. Student Adam Dimenstein is upset that recalls even happen in the United States.

“The problem is the pesticides we use,” says Dimenstein. “We should be technologically past this.”

WCU, once again, had to contend with a recall on May 4. The recent outbreak of food contamination includes spinach, peanut butter, and alfalfa sprouts.

But how exactly is WCU notified of a recall, and how does the school go about removing the selected food items?

Einstein’s Bagels manager Donna Stephens, and assistant manager Cherry Poole, explained that “Western Carolina’s purveyor sends the school an e-mail informing it what food items are contaminated. If the purveyor has recently shipped the food items, the e-mail includes instructions for returning the contaminated foodstuffs. When the purveyor receives the food, it converts it into credit that the establishment can use for purchasing other food items.”According to Stephens, there is no way for the staff to tell if food is contaminated or not. “That is why we wash everything, and why we keep foods in temperature controlled environments. Close contact between government groups and eating establishments is essential to public health.”

Todd Littrell, WCU’s Senior Food Services Manager, states that “The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) informed Sysco-WCU’s purveyor-about the contaminated spinach and alfalfa before one of their tri-weekly shipments. As a result, Western never received the contaminated foodstuffs.”

No one to Littrell’s knowledge has been made sick by the spinach. Carringer states that if a student experienced food poisoning, the health center would immediately treat them for the symptoms. “E. Coli is a self limited disease,” he says. In other words, all but the most severe cases of bacterial food poisoning is treated by putting the victim on an IV to prevent dehydration and treating the symptoms of the disease while it runs its course. More severe cases may require the use of antibiotics or shipment to the county hospital, but such cases are very rare.

Thanks to prompt action on the part of the FDA, Sysco, and WCU’s dining services, Western Carolina University avoided any complications during this brief recall.