Richardson Health Department officials performed a surprise inspection at the Student Union’s Chick-fil-A after a receiving an anonymous complaint and video of cockroaches in the food pick-up area.
The video’s metadata confirmed it was taken at UTD. In the video, a worker opens a cabinet to reveal a box with supplies for the Chick-fil-A location. Several cockroaches can be seen scurrying away. According to the health inspection report, Health Department officials visited the Chick-fil-A on Feb. 6 and confirmed the presence of roaches. A follow-up inspection on Feb. 11 found that the number of cockroaches had decreased by 90 percent and recommended pest control spraying for the next two months.
“We went out and did an investigation on (the complaint), and we did find some roaches,” said Bill Alsup, the director of Richardson’s health department. “We got the operator to do some deep cleaning and some pest control, went back the next week, and it had substantially improved. It was much cleaner.”
Chemistry freshman Wyatt Barbabosa said he discovered the roaches during his shift at Starbucks in late January. He said the insects posed a health risk, so he decided to get documentation before reporting it to his superiors and the health department.
“That night, I was just looking for rags so we could clean up some stuff at Starbucks, and we were out of sanitizer wipes, so I went over to Chick-fil-A,” Barbabosa said. “I started looking in the cabinets because I couldn’t find any, and when I opened them up, a roach jumped out at me.”
Barbabosa said he noticed an immediate change at all the SU food service locations after sending his video to the health department. He said the staff at Starbucks stayed past their scheduled shifts, sometimes until 1 a.m., to deep clean the location in anticipation of a planned inspection by a third party. The inspection took place three days after the scheduled date, and workers weren’t able to get overtime pay because they worked less than 40 hours per week, he said.
Barbabosa said deep cleaning normally occurs once a month and involves scrubbing trash cans and cleaning ice containers, among other things.
“We had to do a deep clean the night before (the inspection), the person didn’t come, we deep cleaned again,” Barbabosa said. “We just kept deep cleaning until the person came and then we stopped once they came and just did our regular closing routine.”
UTD’s Director of Food and Retail Services Carrie Chutes said Auxiliary Services arranges and pays for pest control treatment for all food service areas on campus. Chutes said the university works with Prime Pest, a North Texas company, for pest control. Food service-graded fogging treatments are being used to decrease the roach population. She said the supplies in use are residual, so they remain effective longer than one-time treatments such as aerosol sprays.
“The Student Union is one of our older buildings on campus, and there are more vulnerabilities in that building than some of our newer buildings,” Chutes said. “We decided to take an aggressive approach and increase our treatments to daily.”
Chutes said she was made aware of the cockroaches in early February after the roach sighting was reported by an employee. Pest control measures were implemented immediately afterward on Feb. 11.
One Chick-fil-A worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said the roach problem reached its peak when the food service employees returned from winter break on Jan. 2. He said that he and other workers complained to their managers for over a month before pest control efforts began, and by that point, the insects had come in contact with the food and customers had complained after finding bugs in their food.
“I remember last semester, one of the supervisors at Moe’s was working and she was scooping out the chicken during lunch, so it was really busy,” the worker said. “Then I just hear a bunch of screaming and commotion, and she’s just saying, ‘I can’t work here anymore, I can’t do this,’ because there was a roach in the chicken.”
The worker said management members said the problem was because of the SU’s age so it couldn’t be fixed or that it was due to a lack of proper cleaning on the workers’ part. The worker said that after failing to get the issue resolved, he and other food service workers took it upon themselves to control the roach problem.
“We’d empty out the cabinets and literally lay on the floor to get our hands in tough-to-reach spots and clean before putting everything back in, and there would still be roaches,” he said. “It wasn’t until they actually started spraying that the roaches went away. It just seemed like no matter how much cleaning you did, they were still everywhere.”
The worker said the pest control treatments made a difference, and he now sees about one cockroach per day whereas before the treatments, they were everywhere.
“Everywhere you’d look, you’d see a roach,” he said. “Open the cabinet, there’s a roach. Move a box, there’s a roach. Dispense the coffee, a roach comes out.”
Barbabosa said several of his coworkers at other dining locations had been complaining of insect problems prior to the recording of the video, and he felt that someone needed to take action.
“The health department needed to know about that,” he said. “That’s just the right thing to do, because … someone’s got to do something.”
Additional reporting by Megan Zerez