Food poisoning in the caf?


Jordan Gerard/Winonan

Student Senate receives many reports about alleged food poisoning, said Tyler Stern, a Student Senate representative for the all-university committee for food service.

The reports are generally from the comment cards available for students to fill out in the cafeteria. The comment cards are helpful but only if enough information is provided, Stern said.

“If we get a card that says ‘Your food made me sick,’ we can’t do much, because we don’t know when the person felt sick, what they ate or when they ate it,” Stern said. “We need to know as much detail as possible about when and where the food was eaten.”

Student Senate has received two unconfirmed cases so far this year, which is usually considered not an issue. It becomes an issue when there are multiple cases reported, such as 600 people getting sick, Bruce Bechtle, director of Dining Services, said.

A true case of food poisoning would include the person being mildly sick to violently ill and more than one person having the same symptoms, Bechtle said.

If students feel sick, they should see a doctor first and then contact Bechtle’s office right away.

“I usually get one call per semester about possible food poisoning,” Bechtle said. “Most of the time it’s just a common illness such as the flu.”

All staff who work in the cafeterias and Smaug are trained in food safety and handling twice each year. Employees are required to stay home when they are ill. They also have food safety audits two times each year.

If food poisoning has occurred, Bechtle contacts Winona County Health Department and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). They check with area clinics to see if any similar cases have been reported.

Dining Services pulls the food product from the cafeteria, and an investigation is launched. When they know what caused the poisoning, Dining Services contact the manufacturer, who puts out a national recall notice. The students who are ill can get treated.

“It’s amazingly fast,” Bechtle said.

Winona State University hasn’t had a confirmed case of food poisoning for over nine years, Bechtle said. He oversees both cafeterias, the Smaug, Mugby Junction in Somsen, Perform juice bar in the IWC and catering.

Bechtle said the last confirmed case was in 2001 when the dry taco seasoning contained salmonella. Students and dining staff both ate the seasoning, resulting in them having to be isolated for a period of time.

Bechtle quickly pulled the product from the cafeteria and notified the proper authorities.

The best advice Bechtle gives for not getting sick is to “wash your hands.”

In order to confirm a case of food poisoning, Bechtle’s office needs to know right away. Students can either contact Bechtle at 507-457-2441 or [email protected]

Students should be prepared to tell what they ate, when, where, if it was in the last 24 hours and any symptoms they have.

They can also call the Minnesota Department of Health Foodborne Illness Hotline at 1-877-366-3455.


Contact Jordan at [email protected]