Kiana DeLeo, 18, said when she first found a dead fly in her oatmeal, she chalked it up to bad luck. But over the course of her first semester at Cal State Fullerton, DeLeo said she has found another fly in her salad and has found a strand of hair in her food three times.
DeLeo, who lives in student housing and has a seven-day meal plan, said she used to eat at the Gastronome for breakfast, lunch and dinner most days. The CSUF freshman said she and her friends liked the food at the Gastronome so much she sent in surveys praising their food and staff.
But by October, DeLeo was instead sending in surveys to complain.
“I didn’t want to be that girl that complained, but now I really want to start something,” DeLeo said.
The Gastronome could not be reached for comment.
Christina Martinez, general manager at the Titan Student Union food court, said in her 30 years of food service she hasa never had a situation dealing with food poisoning or illness. Martinez said complaints are such a non-issue that she doesn’t keep a record of them.
According to CSUF Environmental Health Officer Justine Baldacci, the university’s Environmental Health and Safety Department has only received one complaint in 2013.
The complaint was regarding wiping cloths used at the Starbucks in the Pollak Library. It resulted in another inspection of the Starbucks which, this time, received a lower score.
Computer science major Carleigh Lydon contracted food poisoning earlier this semester from an off-campus restaurant and said her symptoms were unmistakable.
Lydon said she was kept awake by an upset stomach for several hours, eventually leading to her vomiting. People who have ingested contaminated foods will typically experience symptoms within two to six hours of consumption. Symptoms of foodborne illnesses vary in type and degree depending on the type of food contaminated.
“It wasn’t a pleasant (experience),” Lydon said, noting that she now avoids the chain restaurant where she purchased the food that got her sick.
Each year approximately 3,000 Americans die as a result of illnesses related to food poisoning, according to the the National Department of Food Safety. One in six people will suffer from foodborne illness each year contracted from foods prepared by themselves or purchased in restaurants.
Early symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, abdominal cramping, retching, diarrhea and vomiting, said Khaliq Siddiq, Medical Director of St. Jude Heritage Medical Group.
DeLeo said her friends have already started to boycott the Gastronome and is definitely canceling her plan, but for now her new routine is to grab a cup-of-noodles and a piece of fruit.
“I’m not eating their cooked food anymore at all,” DeLeo said.
DeLeo said she thinks the Gastronome food might be why she and her friends have been sick lately. A recent report of meningitis at UC Riverside has also made her feel uneasy.
“It’s getting closer to the school and it’s kind of freaking me out,” DeLeo said.
Siddiq said eating foods that hold bacteria, viruses or toxins, can easily result in one becoming susceptible to a foodborne illness.
It is possible for anyone to become sick by consuming any contaminated food. Yet those who are on medications that depress the immune system or have a certain medical condition may be especially vulnerable.
Siddiq said in order to avoid this type of illness, proper food handling techniques are necessary to avoid contamination.
“A common point of cross contamination is when people are preparing food to cook, you need to be careful to avoid touching cooked food with utensils that have in contact with uncooked meat,” Saddiq said. “I cannot overemphasize the need for appropriate frequent hand washing with soap and keeping a clean preparation surface.”
To file a complaint about a restaurant on campus, visit Ehs.Fullerton.edu, click the red “report a hazard or liability” button and select “complaint.”
To compain about a restaurant off-campus, visit OcHealthInfo.com/Eh/Home/Complaints or call Orange County Environmental Health at (714) 433-6000.
Robert Reyes contributed to this report.