What started out as a 10-second video of an insect larva allegedly crawling through a plate of Market Central pasta has sparked a week and a half-long investigation by the police, the county and Sodexo.
A Pitt senior, Chad Stein, said he shot the video Friday, Nov. 6, when he was eating lunch with a friend in Market Central. After he posted the video to the group chat he shares with his friends, two of them, Pitt students John Buchner and Martin Hutto, grabbed the video and tweeted it out.
Since then, Sodexo and the Pitt police launched an investigation into both the Market Central kitchens and the students involved. According to Stein, a finance major, Pitt police questioned him Wednesday, Nov. 11, on whether he had fabricated the video.
Sodexo’s internal inspection of Market Central — as well as inspections by the Allegheny County Health Department and a third-party pest control company — found no evidence of food contamination or an insect infestation.
University spokesperson John Fedele said Pitt police would not comment on the investigation.
Melissa Wade, a spokesperson for the Health Department, did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon, but according to the record of its inspection of Market Central on Nov. 13, the Department found no signs of pests.
According to Abdou Cole, head of Sodexo at Pitt, the plate of pasta in the video was a gluten-free pasta with bolognese, a cooked dish that includes pasta, ground turkey, sauce and broccoli. Stein, too, confirmed that was the plate of food in the video.
Stein said his well-framed shot of the insect larva crawling over the pasta in the video was luck.
The video, which went viral around campus Friday, Nov. 6, may have shown what Jason Kehren, an exterminator and co-owner of Polish Hill-based Premier Pest Control LLC, identified as an Indian meal moth larva crawling through a plate of gluten-free pasta.
Once they hatch out of eggs, Indian meal moth larvae feed on dried grain products, like pastas, according to Kehren.
According to Cole, Sodexo’s investigation did not determine what species of insect was in the video.
After Stein’s friend — Pitt senior John Buchner, who was not at Market with him — tweeted the video, Pitt Dining tweeted back at him and asked to meet with him.
Buchner, a linguistics major, met with Cole and several other Sodexo officials the afternoon of Nov. 6, and said he told Cole that all he wanted was for Pitt to refund his parents for his remaining meal swipes because he didn’t want to eat at Market Central anymore.
As of Wednesday, Sodexo had not refunded his meal plan.
Buchner also said he made it clear he wasn’t the one who filmed the video.
On Monday, Nov. 9, Stein said he met with Cole and the Sodexo officials, including a chef. At that meeting, Stein said, he couldn’t clearly remember who he had eaten lunch with on Friday, Nov. 6, and he mistakenly said it was Buchner.
In reality, Stein said, he ate with a different friend. Yet, because he incorrectly told Cole he had eaten with Buchner, who had requested a refund, Stein said he thinks that is why Sodexo and the Pitt police asked him if he had staged the video. Buchner was not present at Market Central at the time Stein filmed the video.
That interview with Pitt police took place on Wednesday, Nov. 11, at the Pitt police station Stein said. Fedele would not comment on any questions relating to Pitt police’s investigation.
According to Cole, the investigation had not determined the species of insect in the video, in part because Stein never showed his plate to a Sodexo employee after he filmed the video. Had Stein done so, Cole said, Sodexo would have sent the plate to a lab for analysis.
On the day Stein filmed the video, Cole said Market Central served more than 5,100 meals, including 350 portions of the pasta, and received no food safety complaints for that particular meal. As for the Sodexo employees, Cole said the investigation has so far not found any violations of Sodexo food safety policies.
A @PittMaggot parody Twitter account appeared online following the incident and had 336 followers as of Wednesday night. Chad Stein said neither he, nor Buchner, is responsible for the Twitter account’s creation.
Stein said he wished he had shown his plate to a Sodexo employee, as he said it would have saved him the headache of cooperating with the investigation. At the time, Stein said he was more focused on leaving Market Central as quickly as possible.
“Looking back, I wish I did because I didn’t know this would blow up to the proportion it did. I was literally just nauseated,” Stein said.