Trying your hand at exotic foods is one thing, but finding a boiled slug in your daily campus meal can be simply horrifying .
Ajay Thomas, a second-year PHD student, found a slug in his mixed veggies ordered from Panda Express on campus last Tuesday at night.
“I almost threw up,” he said.
After taking a class at UNC Chapel Hill, Thomas got back to campus at around 9:30 p.m. He ordered half mixed veggies and half fried rice from Panda Express.
“The slug was just in the veggies, quietly dead,” he said.
Thomas then wrote to Duke Dining and the general manager of Panda Express. The incident caught their attention and Duke Dining immediately started to investigate the issue. It was discovered that a cabbage supplier shipped patches of cabbage contaminated by slugs to the campus store.
“It was a corporate error, not just a local one,” said senior Chris Taylor, chair of student dining advisory committee. “They’ve had a few incidents of it, and they are addressing it from a corporate scale.”
Panda Express identified that the affected cabbage was from a supplier in Virginia and the cabbage was grown in New York state.
“The growers have experienced some raining in the growing region that may have caused the slugs to appear since the slugs like wet weather,” said James Shen, food safety and quality assurance manager of Panda Express, in an email.
The email also assured that Panda Express does a thorough inspection during produce washing and cutting in order to eliminate any hidden pests in the product.
“They probably just didn’t wash the vegetables carefully,” Thomas said.
General Manager of Panda Jeffery Harper sent out an apology to Thomas last Friday. He assured that the issue has been solved and that the employees are now taking extra precautions.
Thomas also complains about the overall sanitation standard at the Panda store on campus.
“This is only my second year at Duke and this is the fourth time this sort of experience has happened to me at Panda,” he noted. “Previously I have also found human hair in fried rice.”
Director of Duke Dining Robert Coffey commented that Panda has strict food safety standards and has always met or exceeded the requirements of Duke Dining. Durham County Health Department and Duke Dining both oversee quality control inspections for all on campus dining locations four times a year. Duke Dining requires all locations to achieve an A score for all health inspections and employs a full time Quality Assurance Manager to ensure great standards for all dining locations.
According to records on North Carolina Public Health website, Panda Express at Duke received a health inspection score of 99.5 and a grade of A.
“With food service inherently something’s going to get wrong,” Taylor said. “What we want to do is to make sure that if something happens it gets caught beforehand and then the problem is addressed.”
Taylor noted that this specific incident might be due to the difficulty of having oversight over individual employees.
“You can have a problem where someone either by negligence or by misunderstanding of the rules might make a mistake,” Taylor said. “But if that happens, we want to know so that everyone’s dining experience as a whole can be improved.”
Other students also have complaints regarding food sanitation on campus.
Freshman Nicole Churchman said that she once found human hair in stir fry at marketplace.
“It was gross. They don’t wear hair nets or anything,” she said. “I hope some actions can be taken.”
Quality Assurance Manager Tammy Hope wrote in an email that all employees in production and serving areas are required to wear hair restraints, which is compliant with the state health code.
“If the policy is to wear hair nets, well they should,” Churchman said.
Freshman Haley Boling reported that she once had a piece of beef that squirt our blood in marketplace earlier this semester.
“I went to cut into it and a little blood blister or something popped and it started bleeding,” she said. “I just feel like dinner shouldn't need a bandaid.”
Thomas commented that he did not know who to fi complain to after the incident at Panda happened. He noted that it would be much easier for him to report his experience if Duke Dining were more approachable and in touch with students.
Students should seek out a manager in any of the on campus locations for any concerns they have or they can go to Duke Dining’s website under contact us to provide feedback, Coffey said.
“I am not discouraging anybody from eating at Panda,” Thomas added. “Just look at the food before you eat. You don’t know what’s actually going inside.”