The little E. coli breakout that was originally thought to be limited to Michigan State University’s campus has now been linked with several sporadic cases across the state of Michigan including 5 cases at the Lenawee County Jail.
Health Department officials are continuing the traceback effort to find the source of the bacteria. According to an article at WLNS (Channel 6 in Lansing), the school has stopped serving turkey and has also looked in to lettuce being served at the time of the outbreak. With these other cases apppearing, the source is probably something from off-campus that is delivered to the school versus the alternative: a campus dining hall or equipment in the kitchen(s) was contaminated.
Although the number of cases has grown, it is expected that everyone afflicted with the infection will recover. E. coli O157:H7 is scary stuff. I’m probably repeating myself but seriously, you don’t want any disease where the mildest symptom is bloody diarrhea, right?
The idea that the same strain of E. coli showing up in the MSU cafeterias is also showing up in a jail is a little disconcerting. I will say this though: I ate at MSU cafeterias for 2 years. I worked in school cafes for 2 years. I certainly ate way too much fried chicken (seriously, serving it 3 times a week is just not right!) but I never felt like the food wasn’t safe or clean. I never got sick and we never had an investigation of our kitchens. As employees, we weren’t always perfect but we never served food that looked spoiled or that hadn’t been refrigerated. I washed my hands regularly and this was in the days before every employee in every restaurant is supposed to wear gloves to handle any food. I actually think this is ridiculous. You are less likely to notice cross-contamination if food is stuck to a glove than to your skin. Oh yeah, my job? Making pizzas- I had my fingers in cheese, meats, toppings and sauce for my entire shift most nights. But I digress.
In fact, most of my non-Spartan friends were jealous of the quality of dorm food at State. MSU has a reputation for serving top notch food in the dorms. I’m sure having a nationally recognized Hotel-Restaurant Management program helps. At U of M on the otherhand, there were a lot of jokes about green-tinged lunch meats and hamburger marked grade “D- Fit for Human Consumption.” The grading system is nonsense (and meat isn’t graded that way anyhow) but my few visits to a University of MIchigan dorm cafeteria left me grateful for my normal daily options.
The point is, I wouldn’t be afraid to eat in an MSU cafeteria. There are risks everyday with eating food but I’m much more concerned about the source of that product than what it might come across in the kitchens at Michigan State University.