NEWS

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February 20, 2004

B-J facilities closed by city officials

The city's health department confirmed students' suspicions about the dining hall food when it closed the Burton-Judson Courts dining hall Wednesday afternoon because of health code violations.

Inspectors found broken sneeze guards, missing light shields in walk-in coolers, and mouse feces in kitchen. In addition, the dining hall was cited for not having a sanitary hand-dryer or hand towel dispenser near the hand sink in the kitchen. Single service articles were not stored properly, and inspectors cited a mop bucket with dirty water that was too close to the dirty pots that were used for cooking.

Cheryl Gutman, deputy dean of housing and dining Services, said that though the violations were significant, they could be addressed within 24 hours. The kitchen, however, cannot re-open until it clears a second inspection by health department inspectors, which Gutman hopes will come by Friday evening.

In the meantime, B-J cooks are preparing food in the Pierce dining hall kitchen to be shipped to B-J. "If you weren't a regular diner at B-J, then you would never know something was different," Gutman said.

Most regular diners weren't fazed by the violations. "It confirmed my suspicions," said first-year in the College Megan Butte. "I think it's really funny. This is going to be the B-J joke for as long as the building stands."

The Student Care Center had asked the health department to inspect B-J's kitchen following a rash of a gastrointestinal illness among B-J residents.

"One of the places where there was a strange kind of concentration was in one of the B-J houses, which had something like 24 cases of people getting ill within, like, four days," Gutman said.

According to Gutman, many of these students experienced severe vomiting and diarrhea for 12 to 24 hours, but she said that the health department's report does not directly relate the violations to the illnesses.

Though both Hutchinson Commons and the Pierce dining hall passed recent health inspections, B-J's dining hall had not been inspected since 2001.

"It is helpful to get inspected," Gutman said. "You don't want to rely on it, but it helps you get a second pair of eyes. I want to look into what's involved in retaining our own food safety sanitation consultant that would supplement what the health department is able to do."

The University and Aramark food services responded quickly; a pest control company arrived at B-J just after the dining hall had closed for dinner. As soon as the health department receives a receipt from the company, it will send representatives for another inspection.

"Aramark has done a very good job responding to this," Gutman said. "I'm very impressed at how quick, intelligent, and thoughtful they have been."

Several Aramark officials refused to comment about the situation.

Gutman said she has heard few comments about the situation from students, except for some questions about when the kitchen would reopen. "I was a bit surprised by the lack of anxiety," she said.

"The food's bad enough; knowing it's infected is expected," said first-year in the College Feliks Pleszcyzynski. "On the bright side, it helps our immune systems."

With additional reporting by news editors Andrew Moesel and Isaac Wolf.