POLITICS

Memorial University says safety assessment underway after food complaints

03/25/2015 04:53 EDT | Updated 05/25/2015 05:59 EDT
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Dining hall complaints of raw meat, mouldy food and a fly in a taco dish have spurred what Memorial University of Newfoundland says is a rigorous review of services provided by Aramark.

The multinational company started a five-year food service contract at Memorial University in 2013. Students who live in various campus residences are obliged to sign up for meal plans that cost about $2,200 per semester.

No one from the university's administration was made available Wednesday for an interview.

"Memorial and Aramark are committed to addressing concerns and making improvements," said a statement posted to the university website.

"A rigorous food safety assessment is underway, in tandem with daily food quality tests."

Officials have also called in the province's Health Department for food safety inspections.

Laura Barron, a spokeswoman for the university, said in an email Wednesday that prior to a social media roundup of photos featuring undercooked pork chops, brownish water and dirty cutlery, the school had received one official complaint. She also said the Memorial Student Health Clinic has reported no illnesses linked to the dining hall.

Aramark spokeswoman Karen Cutler said in an email Wednesday that the company's food safety procedures are "industry leading and if questions are raised we fix them quickly."

"Serving safe, nutritious food is our top priority. We are very concerned about the images posted on social media as they are not at all reflective of our high quality standards."

Aramark has been in the news before over its meal service.

The company made headlines in the U.S. and was fined by state officials last year over the quality of prison meals in both Michigan and Ohio. It has since said it continues to make improvements.

Robert Leamon, executive director of campaigns for the Memorial University students' union, said some dissatisfied diners tried to approach Aramark or campus officials but there was no clear mechanism for complaints.

A food committee that included student representatives and brought concerns to administrators folded when Aramark took over, he said.

"That's where those kinds of issues used to be brought up."

Leamon said the university has agreed to restore the committee and a town hall meeting to discuss food quality was planned for Wednesday night.

"These are not isolated concerns or just something that has happened now."

Leamon said many students already facing huge debts resent being obliged to pay for meal plans that tie them to one part of campus and don't always meet their needs.

"Things being rotten at times or just simply not labelled properly. It's a big concern for those who have particular diet concerns," he said.

"This is something that a lot of students have been talking about for a very long time throughout the past year."

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