“We Shouldn’t Have To Worry”: Some Students Face Illness Following Meals in Dining Halls

The Phoenix spoke with 10 Loyola students who said they became ill or found something wrong with their food from the dining halls on the Lake Shore Campus. There has been no uptick in gastrointestinal issues, according to The Wellness Center.

At least eight students have reportedly become ill after consuming food from the dining halls, and at least two have found their food to be spoiled or uncooked on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus (LSC).

Last year, The Phoenix reported speaking with 20 students who became ill after eating in the dining halls. 10 months later, some students are still reporting food-related illnesses after eating in the dining halls.

Loyola Dining Services did not respond to requests for comment. 

Aramark, the company which runs Loyola Dining, did not respond to The Phoenix’s request for an interview regarding incidents of food poisoning on campus.

The dining halls have struggled to keep up with food safety requirements set in place by the City of Chicago, The Phoenix previously reported. Damen Dining Hall has failed inspections three times, only passing twice since 2018, according to food inspection archives from the Chicago Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) website

Inspections occur annually, or when a complaint is issued. Simpson and de Nobili have each failed once, passed with conditions once and passed four times since 2018, according to the CDPH.

When a food serving establishment, they are permitted to remain open until their next inspection, contingent on them rectifying any issues which had been named.

The dining halls have had issues with buildup of dirt, labeling foods incorrectly with the proper ingredients and allergens, not labeling foods with expiration dates, issues with bugs, undercooking food and not posting the proper safety procedures since 2018, according to the CDPH. 

In February, Simpson and de Nobili passed inspections, while Damen Dining Hall passed with conditions, meaning there were things which needed fixing, but none were serious enough to fail, according to the data from CDPH data portal.

This year, Damen Dining Hall was holding cooked sliced beef at 121 F and 117 F, while pizza was being held at 69 F, all of which are temperatures below the minimum temperature of 135 F which is needed to pass based on the statistics

Annalee Christopher, a first-year political science major, said she doesn’t trust the food in the dining halls after saying she has gotten sick five to 10 times since the semester began. Christopher said when she does need to eat in the dining halls, she usually goes to de Nobili.

“The only thing at [de Nobili] I have gotten that hasn’t upset my stomach has been the Mediterranean Middle Eastern food,” Christopher said. “Every single time I have eaten at Damen I have left with a stomach ache.”

Kaylee Frederking, a first-year social work major, said she was sick for two days after contracting food poisoning from dining hall food. 

When she asked the Wellness Center staff if it was normal for students to become sick from the food on the LSC, she was told it was nothing out of the ordinary. Frederking also said she became sick with food poisoning again one week later. 

“I got sick in the first week of school and I was not able to attend my Wednesday class because I was throwing up and I had a fever,” Frederking said.

After being diagnosed at the Wellness Center, Frederking said Wellness Center staff told her “it was nothing out of the ordinary ” for students to get sick from the dining hall foods.

When she asked the Wellness Center staff if it was normal for students to become sick from the food on the LSC, she was told it was nothing out of the ordinary. Frederking also said she became sick with food poisoning again one week later. 

“I think it was Simpson,” Frederking said. “I used to go with the salad bar and I honestly think it was the chicken from the salad bar. I remember having it be really chewy.” 

Nicholas Straw, a first-year film and media major, said he is very disappointed in the quality of the food in the dining halls. Staw worked in the cafeteria of a large corporation in high school, and said the poor quality of food in the Loyola Dining Halls is noticeable.

“It was all high-quality food and we put a lot of time and effort into it and there were only six of us to feed a couple thousand people everyday, five days a week,” Straw said. “It’s just a little disappointing that this is an option I am being presented with when I am paying for this.” 

Joan Holden, assistant vice president for student health and wellness at the Loyola Wellness Center, said they have not seen any sort of an uptick in food poisoning cases since the start of the fall semester.

Holden said even when there are cases of students with food poisoning, there is no way to be able to tell whether it came from the dining halls or not.

“You can get gastrointestinal infections in lots of different places, it doesn’t always have to be in the dining hall,” Holden said.

All of the students who spoke with The Phoenix for the purpose of this article said they were sure they contracted the illnesses from the food in the dining halls.

Kentaro Fujii, a first-year cybersecurity major, said he did not get sick from the food but he did have chicken which was undercooked from Simpson Dining Hall during the first week of school.

“I got the chicken breast and two of my friends got the chicken drumsticks,” Fujii said. “When we took bites into it, it was very pink inside still. The outside looked like it was cooked, but the inside was still very raw.” 

Some other students have had issues with becoming sick from the chicken, including Celeste Ingemi, a first-year accounting major, who said she became sick after eating chicken at de Nobili Dining Hall.

“I got sick on the L on my way to a downtown class that I have for two hours only once a week,” Ingemi said. “I did have to miss that and I went to the Wellness Center downtown.”

A student found a shard of glass in the salad she got from de Nobili Dining Hall in Oct. 2021, The Phoenix previously reported. Following that initial reporting, a Loyola spokesperson confirmed the university was aware of an “uptick in gastrointestinal illnesses.”

Following the string of students who became sick in 2021, the university said they put new practices in place to protect students and staff from food borne illnesses, including routine cleaning of high touch surfaces and only allowing the dining hall staff to serve the food to students rather than having self-serve options in the dining halls, The Phoenix previously reported

Frederking said after becoming sick for the second time, she had trouble bringing herself to eat regularly in the dining halls.

“I had to spend extra money because I just did not trust the dorm food and I still do not really trust it,” Frederking said.

First-year students do not have in-unit kitchens, and are only permitted to have mini-fridges in their dorm rooms, according to the Loyola University Residence Life website.

Students at Loyola are required to have a meal plan through their sophomore year, according to the Loyola website.

Ingemi said she thought it was wrong for food poisoning to be an issue at a school which costs so much to attend.

“It’s definitely frustrating because we are paying all this money to eat and live here and go to school,” Ingemi said. “We shouldn’t have to worry about people getting food poisoning in our own dining halls.”

Featured image by Heather Higgins | The Phoenix

Lilli Malone

Lilli Malone