Gloria Noble | Senior Web Producer | @GloriaNoble_
Erick Payne | Senior Producer | @itsErickPayne
The University of Oklahoma’s campus dining options are battling poor health inspections after a student found a cockroach in her chocolate cake. While the university has attempted to right the inspector’s findings, the Greek chapter houses are battling poor health inspections, even though there is a lot of notoriety about food safety within the OU community.
Inspectors found 782 food code violations after 157 inspections for Greek chapter houses compared to 913 food code violations after 189 inspections at university food options over the same timeframe between 2010 and 2015, according to records from the Cleveland County Health Department.
No records were made available for Phi Delta Theta and Phi Kappa Psi. The average number of violations per inspection was similar to the average amount found in Greek houses, only 6 percent at campus food services were found to be ‘priority violations’.
Recently, Couch Restaurants were inspected following an incident of a student finding cockroaches in her cake. OU Nightly compared statistics between Greek houses and on campus food options for university students finding the top on-campus violators based on average number of violations per inspection in the past five years to be:
The top five CDC risk factors often responsible for foodborne illness outbreaks are:
- Improper hot or cold holding temperatures of potentially hazardous food
- Improper cooking temperatures of food
- Dirty or contaminated utensils and equipment
- Poor employee health and hygiene
- Food from unsafe sources
Priority violations are violations which the U.S. Center of Disease Control and Prevention has labeled as “items that are directly linked to the elimination, prevention or reduction of [food borne] illnesses”.
Cleveland County Health Department also looks at ‘priority violations’. 10 percent of all 782 violations at Greek houses were labeled as ‘priority violations’.
Greek Chapter Houses:
Many kitchens in Greek houses are managed on-site by food services: Keystone Foods, Upper Crust Food Service, Benchmark Food Group, College Chefs and Sangre Food Service Management.
These food services are under contract with individual houses, and deal directly with all aspects of the kitchen – from staffing, to ordering and food preparation.
Greek houses overall have averaged 5 violations per inspection since 2010.
OU Nightly found the top violators based on ‘average number of violations per inspection’ over the past five years to be:
Both Alpha Chi Omega and Pi Kappa Phi have an average of more violations than the 5 violations per inspection average across all Greek houses.
Alpha Chi Omega’s violations are related to sanitation, insects, cold holding temperatures, toxic substances improperly labeled, among others. The sorority has had no inspections for 2015.
Alpha Chi Omega currently uses Benchmark to manage its kitchen. Benchmark failed to respond to phone calls as of press deadline.
“Our establishment has received no violations in 2015,” Hope Klepper, president of Alpha Chi Omega said. “We are constantly working with our food service provider, Benchmark, and the Oklahoma Food Service Establishment to ensure the kitchen is kept clean and up to code.”
Pi Kappa Phi has been in its current location after taking over the property in 2013.
“We have only been on the property for two years now and are not responsible for any infractions before the fall of 2013,” Tyler Self, president of Pi Kappa Phi said. “We are currently leasing the property from Pike Fraternity, they are the building managers and are responsible for all upkeep and violations.”
While Self mentioned his house is not responsible for violations prior to 2013, records show no inspections on the property prior to 2013.
The 33 violations and three ‘priority’ violations were found in four inspection since Aug. 22, 2013. The violations include but are not limited to failure to have an appropriate license, adequate facilities for hand-washing, sanitized food contact surfaces of equipment, cleaned food and non-food surfaces, probe thermometers, cold holding temperatures, and date marking.
Pi Kappa Phi currently uses Upper Crust Food Service to manage its kitchen.
Upper Crust’s receptionist told us that Adam, the individual responsible for media relations, did not have a voicemail or a phone in his office and was unavailable to comment.
“We have confronted all concerns and violations with the food crew and staff of our vendor,” Austin Albro, President of Phi Kappa Sigma said. “We pride ourselves on improving ourselves and our chapter house each year.”
Albro noted the chapter has switched from last years food service provider, Upper Crust Food Service, and now uses Keystone Foods. “They have been far better in dealing with the food prep, serving, and cleaning,” Albro said.
Keystone Foods failed to respond for comment as of press deadline.
Phi Kappa Sigma has two recorded inspections since September 2015, as the house was under construction in the fall and early spring of the 2014-2015 school year. Albro said the house improves as members and the chapter itself, but since the first inspection the chapter has similar infractions.
The chapter’s violations are, but not restricted to hand washing facilities, hand antiseptics, date marking, approved thaw methods and toxic substances being properly labeled among other violations.
Delta Upsilon failed to respond to requests for a comment. The fraternity manages their kitchen independently.
OU Nightly found the top violators based on the percentage of total violations were priority violations to be:
“Pi Beta Phi takes the safety of its members seriously,” Lindsay Briggs, President of Pi Beta Phi said. “It’s chapter house was last inspected by the Health Department on Dec. 7, 2015 and passed that inspection.”
While Briggs claims to have passed her house’s inspection, the violations from their most recent inspection include cold holding temperatures, clean food contact surfaces and failure to prevent contamination during food preparation. There were eight recorded violations on the specified date and one ‘priority’ violation for adequate hand-washing facilities properly supplied and accessible as well as restrooms being properly supplied.
Pi Beta Phi’s current food service is Keystone Foods.
Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Chi failed to respond to requests for a comment. Gamma Phi Beta and Kappa Sigma declined to comment.
Sigma Phi Epsilon has six recorded inspections since 2010 with 39 violations and five ‘priority’ violations. The house’s denoted violations are related to food separation and protection, adequate handwashing facilities, valid license to operate among other lesser violations. The fraternity’s averaged 6.5 violations per inspection and 12 percent of those violations were deemed ‘priority’ violations.
Sigma Phi Epsilon currently uses Upper Crust Food Service as their food service.
Sigma Chi has 16 recorded inspections since 2010. In those inspections, 98 violations were found and 19 ‘priority’ violations were noted. The violations are related to clean washed hands, adequate handwashing facilities, food separation and protection, among others. Sigma Chi’s food service is Benchmark Food Group.
While there are houses with multiple ‘priority violations’, there are Greek houses on the Norman campus which have maintained relatively clean establishments by the health inspections provided but those houses have inspection information provided from 2014 to present.
Kappa Alpha Theta has recorded two inspections since 2014. The inspector found four violations and none of the violations to be considered critical or a ‘priority violation’. Kappa Alpha Theta violations were but not restricted to items related to sanitation, cleaning frequency, food contact surfaces and the improper use of food to non-food surfaces.
Kappa Alpha Theta currently uses Upper Crust Food Service.
Phi Gamma Delta has been inspected twice since August 2014. The three non-priority violations found in the first inspection were related to personnel sanitation, jewelry and hair restraints, contact between food and non-food surfaces as well as ‘other’ which is not defined in the documented health inspection. The succeeding health inspection the following week did not specify violations after the initial inspection on Aug. 6, 2014.
Phi Gamma Delta manages their kitchen independently.
Delta Tau Delta has documented two inspections since August 2014, as well. The first inspection on Aug. 4, 2014 discloses five non-critical violation that are but not limited to cleanliness of food and non-food surfaces, floors, walls and ceilings, restroom facilities and sanitation equipment. The second inspection, dated Aug. 11, 2014 does not indicate subsequent violation following the first inspection the previous week.
Delta Tau Delta’s current food service is Keystone Foods.
How health inspections work:
Kristina Milroy, environmental health supervisor for the Oklahoma State Department of Health said inspections are conducted once in three or four quarters of the year for “school priority establishments”. The amount of inspections, Milroy said, are fixed on the priority assessment of the location.
“The number of inspections per year does not include other factors that could increase the number of inspections performed, including complaints and violations that cannot be immediately corrected at the time of inspection and require a follow up inspection,” Milroy said.
When asked, Milroy said the Cleveland county health department does not calculate averages or maintain information on averages. Inspections are made to represent a “snapshot in time” and “any similarities in inspections are a coincidence and the inspection findings can vary from day to day, week to week”.
While on-campus food establishments and Greek houses could have poor inspection results, Milroy said the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the food provider are on the same team, and that is to benefit the customer.
“At the time if the employees or management have any remaining question, we offer assistance in providing potential resolutions so that the management can regain managerial control over their operational procedures,” Milroy said.
Milroy said the goal of the health department is to provide establishments with the knowledge and skills needs to maintain public safety and sanitation.
“[The health department is] working with the facilities to ensure they provide the highest standards of service is a top priority,” Milroy said.
For more information on food safety the Cleveland County Health Department provides a food safety class weekly. You can visit the Cleveland County website or call 405-321-4048.
*University Food Options are inspected more frequently due to priority assessment establishment of food service. As a result we calculated violations proportional to the amount of inspections each facility received.
*Some houses are inspected more frequently than others, and the database reflects the correct numbers. As a result we calculated violations proportional to the amount of inspections each house received.
*Erick Payne is a member of Kappa Sigma. In no way did this affect the reporting in this article.