By Dana Cole
As an Eastern student, one is subject to eating in the Powell Student Building a time or two during one’s college career. This being one of the most accessible locations for students to eat, students traipse in and out of the building situated behind the “Naked Man,” and most don’t think twice whether or not the food is safe to eat.
“It’s about as safe as any place,” said Timothy Purvis, a 35-year-old political science major from Dayton, Ohio.
As with any restaurant, there are always concerns of food poisoning or illness that a patron thinks was caused by food eaten at a certain establishment. Powell is not any different. Two current students said they think they became ill from food consumed in Powell.
Heather Keith, 20, geology major from Owenton, said she ate a chicken fettucine dish in The Fresh Food Company, located in upstairs Powell, and was sick not long afterward. She said the chicken she consumed was not thoroughly cooked. Keith said she was so sick, she wound up at the hospital with severe dehydration.
“I had to go to Pattie A. Clay,” Keith said. “They were basically testing every fluid that came out of me, and they said I had an E. coli infection from a raw food.”
Keith said the only thing she ate containing meat that was raw at one point on the day she became ill was the chicken in her pasta from Powell. She said she no longer eats food from Powell.
Austin Plenzler, 19, sports management major from Springboro, Ohio, said he ate food from the newest addition to the Fountain Food Court, Jump Asian Express, and thinks he became ill from undercooked meat as well.
“I just got really sick and was throwing up, then the next morning I had a migraine,” Plenzler said.
Plenzler said he also sought medical attention at Pattie A. Clay Regional Medical Center where he received a series of shots to remedy his ailment.
He said he has his own theory about why the food may have been served undercooked and made him sick.
“They were kind of hurrying the process,” Plenzler said.
Bryson Alford, retail manager of Fountain Food Court and fitness trainer, said hurried cooking is more than likely not the case. He said there is no raw meat used at Jump, but that everything is delivered fully cooked and frozen.
“All of their food comes pre-cooked, so basically is goes from thawed out to sautee pan or deep fryer, depending on what dish you’re ordering,” Alford said. “So nothing at Jump is raw.”
Aflord also noted only two locations in the food court have raw products other than produce. Those are Chik-Fil-A, which has raw chicken, and Grille Works, which has raw hamburger.
“We do a lot of prep; we don’t [do] a tremendous amount of cooking,” Alford said. “It’s more cooking from an already cooked status.”
Although Plenzler said he thinks his illness was caused by something he ate in Powell, there is no evidence to back his claim.
“I can’t prove it’s from that,” Plenzler said.
Charlie Brubeck, food service director, said he has worked for dining services for 10 years and cannot recall an instance of food poisoning associated with the food there.
“To my knowledge, in my 10-year term that I’ve been here, we have never had a food-borne illness here,” Brubeck said.
Brubeck said if there ever were a situation where a food-borne illness was linked to campus, the hospital would have to confirm the illness, then immediately report it to the local health department. The local health department would immediately contact the school’s dining services and perform a thorough investigation of the claim.
“We should shut down that particular operation immediately,” said Larry Puscizna, senior food service director at Eastern.
Marvin Dixon, a spokesperson for the environmental health services branch of the Madison County Health Department, confirmed that there have been no reported cases of a food-borne illness linked to Eastern.
“With everything we are serving on a daily basis, we are really proud of that fact,” Puscizna said.
Every establishment located in Powell is held to strict food safety standards, Alford said, from temping coolers, freezers and hot wells periodically to ensuring every employee takes a food safety test at the health department.
“We take food safety seriously,” Puscizna said. “From the time it hits the dock to the time we serve it, we handle it like we are supposed to.”
The restaurants are also subject to a health inspection twice a year. Alford said his last inspection scored 99 out of a potential 100, losing a single point because of paperwork, not a sanitation issue.
Jennifer Taylor, 20, forensic science major from Huber Heights, Ohio, said she thinks the workers at Powell do a good job of being sanitary and is not concerned with the safety of the food there.
“I watch them carefully, especially at Quiznos; I make sure they are wearing gloves,” Taylor said. “I don’t really see it as unsafe.”
Alford maintains every precaution necessary is taken to ensure students are not at risk when eating on campus.
“I just want to convey that it is something we take very seriously, very personally,” Alford said.