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Carnegie Mellon University Outbreak? On-Campus Eatery Had Multiple Violations

Posted in Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on February 23, 2024

When inspectors were investigating possible foodborne illnesses at Carnegie Mellon University, several violations were discovered at the campus eatery, Stack’d Underground, according to the report. Some of these violations may have led to unfortunate illnesses. Is there a Carnegie Mellon University Outbreak?

Stack’d Underground is a restaurant located in the lower level of Morewood Gardens residence hall. The establishment serves dishes from the Mero Restaurant Group’s Okland restaurants and includes offerings such as burgers, chicken, grilled cheese, wraps, salads, and other American fare.

However, it recently came under fire during this investigation.

Carnegie Mellon University Reached Out to Health Department After Foodborne Illness Was Reported

After numerous students reported foodborne illnesses at Carnegie Mellon University that were potentially linked to the on-campus restaurant, Stack’d Underground, a school representative voluntarily reached out to the county health department.

Spokesman Peter Kerwin indicated that the university said “numerous” students reported symptoms consistent with foodborne illness, though the exact number was not available. The university encouraged those showing symptoms to notify campus health officials or their own health provider.

“University health Services acted quickly following numerous students reporting symptoms,” said a statement. “Upon learning that these students all consumed food from the same on-campus eatery around the same time, the university promptly contacted the Allegheny Health Department to inspect the third-party food vendor and enforce safety protocols.”

The exact pathogen and confirmed association with the eatery are not available at this time. Details may become available later as the investigation continues. Most foodborne illnesses are marked by diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. However, certain foodborne bacteria can lead to complications such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (a type of kidney failure), reactive arthritis, seizures, and other serious symptoms.

Allegheny County Health Department’s Food Safety program inspectors promptly responded with an inspection the next day.

Inspection Noted Several High-Risk Violations

The inspector observed several high-risk violations that may have led to the foodborne illness. Improper temperature control, improper utensil storage, poor hand hygiene, and grime were enough to warrant the need for re-inspection.

High-risk violations Included:

  • Large containers of buffalo sauce not held at proper temperature
  • Sticky residue around nozzle area of soda machine
  • Ice wand on floor of the freezer
  • Employee observed changing gloves without washing their hands
  • Improper date marking of food

Other violations:

  • Food debris on multiple surfaces (i.e. cooler handles and ketchup counter dispenser)
  • Improper cooking temperature knowledge

The inspector left the eatery with a list of items that needed improvement and those that needed to be resolved right away. A follow up inspection was scheduled to check for these activities.

Restaurant Was Re-Inspected

The restaurant was re-inspected two days later.

According to the re-inspection report, the major violations were corrected. The cooler that held the buffalo sauce was placed out of order and a work order for the appliance was initiated. Food contact surfaces and utensils had been washed, rinsed, and sanitized per the restaurant owner.

The following corrections were noted in the report:

  • All items were removed from the cooler.
  • The cooler has been placed out of order and work order has been initiated.
  • Proper date marking observed on all product prepared and held >24hrs.
  • Fry punch was cleaned.
  • The soda machine has been cleaned.
  • Sanitation test trips were ordered (only one test strip was observed on the premise).
  • All jackets and bags have been removed from shelving and hung on hooks in the office.

Many of the violations were corrected, however, a few more observations were made.

Low-risk violations observed:

  • A dispensing cup was observed stored in a container of cooked chicken.
  • A personal cell phone was stored on the same shelf as open, single service items above a prep table in the prep area.

The restaurant remained open. However, Stack’d Underground and other food establishments on campus may be undergoing increased scrutiny as the university cracks down on contracted independent food vendors.

University Cracks Down on Independent Vendors After Possible Foodborne Illness at Carnegie Mellon University

According to the spokesman, there are 13 independent food vendors contracted by Carnegie Mellon Dining Services. These eateries are inspected twice-yearly by county health officials.

“Additionally [Carnegie Mellon University] pays for EcoSure, a third-party food safety inspection company, to conduct thorough inspections throughout the year,” he said. “In the wake of this circumstance, those inspections will be increased.”

Parents Trust the University’s Food Establishments

Parents put a lot of trust in a university’s food establishments. When college students are away from home, they often turn to these eateries for meals, as cooking on campus can sometimes be limited depending on living situations.

These on-campus eateries are no different from restaurants in the city. They are held to the standards established by state and local health departments. When contractors do not uphold health department standards, students’ health and education are put at risk.

Carnegie Mellon University parents can appreciate the swift action by university officials at getting to the bottom of the observed rise in foodborne illness on campus. However, some may say that such oversight should have been conducted before students fell ill.

Have You Eaten at Stack’d Underground and Contracted a Foodborne Illness at Carnegie Mellon University?

If you have eaten at Stack’d Underground and become sick with foodborne illness at Carnegie Mellon University, you may have a legal case. The experience Food Poisoning lawyers at The Lange Law Firm, PLLC can talk to you about the details of your experience and help you through this difficult experience.

Call (833) 330-3663 or click here to fill out an online submission form for a free consultation. Call or email today for the information you need.

Want to Know More About Food Concerns in the News?

Want to know more about food concerns in the news, similar to possible foodborne illnesses in this Carnegie Mellon University Outbreak? Check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more!

Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)