Pitt, Sodexo address food safety concerns amid reinspection citations


TPN file photo

Market Central and Market To-Go are up for re-inspection and plan to retrain their employees after they were cited for several food safety inspection categories in the Allegheny County Health Department’s Food Safety Assessment Report last week.

By Hannah Schneider and Christian Snyder

After Market Central was cited for violating multiple food safety guidelines in its most recent inspection, Pitt says it will seek a more direct oversight role of Sodexo as nearly 2,000 people have signed a petition demanding Pitt replace Sodexo as its food supplier.

[Read: Market cited for 14 health violations]

“We are aware of the petition to replace Sodexo as our food services vendor, and we certainly share our students’ frustration,” Pitt spokesperson Joe Miksch said in an email Saturday afternoon. “Our focus right now is to make sure these issues are resolved as quickly as possible.”

The petition was posted Thursday by Pitt student Anthony Gavazzi. It calls for Pitt students to “emancipate” themselves from Sodexo.

“Pitt is a respected world-class university whose students deserve catering services that don’t potentially put their health at risk. It is not a radical idea that students paying for a multi-thousand-dollar meal plan should not be forced to consume food that is undesirable and quite possibly unsafe,” the petition says.  

According to the re-inspection report on Friday, only six categories were violated out of the 25 Food Safety Assessment categories reviewed by the Allegheny County Health Department — a decrease from the 14 cited in the Oct. 10 report. Two of the six were deemed “high risk,” two were considered “medium risk,” one had low and medium risk violations and one was considered “low risk.” Of the eight General Sanitation categories, one category was violated but was not cited as having any risk. The ACHD held an on-site conference at the re-inspection where, according to the report, Pitt and Sodexo “committed to prevent these violations from reoccurring.”

“We have demanded Sodexo resolve these issues as soon as possible,” Miksch said. “Moving forward, the University will be taking a more direct oversight role with Sodexo, and we are prepared to take all necessary actions if these issues continue.”

Miksch did not specify what a direct oversight role would be or what actions Pitt was prepared to take.

But earlier on Monday, Miksch mistakenly emailed a Pitt News reporter working on a different Sodexo-related story a draft of Market-related answers written by Abdou Cole, resident district manager of Pitt Dining by Sodexo. Cole offered more specific information about the changes Sodexo has made and what changes will be made in the future, including hiring a registered sanitarian to Sodexo’s management team.

“We have reviewed and retrained kitchen staff on all … [Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Points] requirements. Specifically, in this instance the guidelines for ‘Cooling’ procedures,” Cole said.

The high-risk cleaning and sanitation violation detailed a squeeze bottle in clean storage observed with dried food debris on the inside of the bottle. In the dish room, utensils were observed with soiled food contact surfaces in bus pans of clean utensils.

In response to this issue, Cole said dirty dishes were removed and the dishwashing machine vendor was called immediately to examine the dish machine and detergent dispenser. In response to general sanitation measures, Sodexo food safety and sanitation experts came this past weekend to provide additional food safety support and expertise.

“Sodexo has detailed procedures and requirements to ensure food safety and sanitation. We are working with our Health Safety and Environmental Specialists to reinforce these for all managers and staff,” Cole said. “We are also adding a registered sanitarian to the management team. This position will have the qualification equivalent to that of health inspector. They will be responsible for directing all aspects of our food safety program on campus.”

Miksch directed feedback to the Pitt Dining website, which says students can call Panther Central at 412-648-1100 to report suspected food safety violations.

In the future, Miksch said, Pitt wants Sodexo to be more transparent.

“We have required Sodexo to generate a comprehensive plan that will improve transparency, address current inspection findings and reduce or eliminate further findings,” he said. “Our current focus is to ensure that the company fulfills its pledge to remedy current concerns related to food safety while improving communication with the University.”

The Allegheny County Health Department will return to Market Central Nov. 19 for a second reinspection.