On Nov. 17, sophomore Annie Yang ordered a side salad at Pitchforks and noticed an unexpected ingredient—a cockroach. 

“At first, I didn’t even realize what it was,” she said. “I thought it was a black bean.”

So how did such a menacing bug slip into her meal, and what can students and Duke Dining do to prevent an incident in the future?

Marcus Carson, sustainability and quality assurance manager for Duke Dining, wrote in an email about their standards for food management.

“Duke Dining’s Quality Assurance Program applies specific standards related to food safety and customer service to each dining location on campus," he wrote. "Dining staff is required to undergo training related to these standards and locations are formally evaluated via Durham County health inspections, internal operations reviews and the Mystery Shopper Program. In addition to these formal evaluations, every dining location is monitored on a daily basis to ensure they are meeting Duke Dining’s very high-quality assurance standards."

Although the incident has made Yang “warier” of what she orders, she did not point the bug out to the Pitchforks staff. But, as Carson explained, Duke Dining prefers students to do the opposite.

“To ensure the safety of our students and the quality of our offerings, we highly encourage any issue is reported to a manager on site immediately. Without knowing more details it can be very difficult to remedy such concerns,” he wrote.

Because Yang still wanted to file a report after the incident, she contemplated using a comment card—as she knew that it would be a direct means of providing feedback on dining and services directly to the administration. However, she explained that she found the comment categories on the card to be “vague” and was uncertain as to whether or not Duke Dining would ever review her card and those of others.

Carson wrote that both physical and electronic comment cards are received each year and added that Duke Dining appreciates “any and all feedback.”

Yang instead opted to post in Fix My Campus—a closed Facebook group for Duke students to voice suggestions about dining, academics and other areas related to campus affairs. She hoped that her post would prompt Duke Dining to contact Pitchforks staff about the cockroach and spark discussion on issues like “better produce examination.”

Given that some students may prefer not to contact the administration directly—like Yang, Carson wrote on how complaints on the group might eventually reach administrators.

He explained that a Fix My Campus student representative assigned to address food complaints generally steps in and can contact Duke Dining or the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee for further action. 

Julia Medine, senior and co-chair of DUSDAC, spoke on the importance of DUSDAC’s role of connecting students like Yang with Duke Dining when faced with food management concerns.

“When [DUSDAC does] get involved in those issues, we take them very seriously because we feel responsible for being the liaison between students and administration in fixing issues that are only noticeable when students do complain,” she said.

She added that DUSDAC has not had an opportunity to deliberate on the Pitchforks salad because it has not held a meeting since Yang’s post.

Fix My Campus is “an incredible resource,” Medine noted, because it “alerts other students of problems on campus” and enables students to “mobilize behind important issues.” 

Yang’s post has had upwards of 30 comments and 175 likes and reactions since it came out. 

One of the comments suggested that sanitation issues “have been going on for a while” at Pitchforks. This “really surprised” Yang because of the health certifications displayed outside of Duke eateries, especially for Pitchforks—which has a sanitation rating of 99 out of 100.

Carson wrote that Duke Dining takes pride in Duke eateries—which collectively have an average health inspection score of 99. In addition to annual formal inspections through the Durham County Health Department the eateries also go through a biannual check through Duke Dining’s internal Quality Assurance Program.

“In addition to these formal evaluations, Duke Dining locations are being constantly monitored by administrative staff to ensure they meet our very high standards every single day,” he wrote.

Except for the cockroach discovery, Yang said that she has had no prior issues with the restaurant, and Medine concurred that she has not heard of anything similar to the Pitchforks salad and classified it as an incident of “serious concern.” 

“In my experience, [DUSDAC has] not had any issues related to serious sanitation concerns. It’s not something we see often,” Medine said.