Richardson Health Department conducts inspections of Dining Hall West, IHOP Express to address numerous complaints
A series of posts on UTD’s subreddit featured pictures of moldy food and raw chicken allegedly found at various UTD dining establishments, beginning at the end of November.
Jamie Lee Harris, a computer science sophomore, said he found a hot dog covered with mold in Dining Hall West the week after Thanksgiving break.
“When I went up and handed the bun back to the workers, (one of them) said, ‘Yeah, that’s the third time today,’” Harris said. “He immediately went through and checked all the current bread they had out, but I’m guessing they brought out more bread that they hadn’t checked because I know there were multiple posts later.”
Harris later created a thread on Reddit with an image of the moldy bun, which has since received over 170 upvotes, on Nov. 27. Harris said that same week, other individuals posted pictures of moldy buns they allegedly found in the Dining Hall.
Computer science freshman John Martin said he was served undercooked chicken at the IHOP Express on Nov. 15. He later posted a photo of the inside of the chicken he was served on Reddit.
“I was really fed up,” Martin said. “I took the picture, I sent it to my PA, I tried reaching out to some of the admins, and I haven’t really gotten a response except from my PA who has about as much power in this as I do.”
Chartwells, the UTD contractor that operates all food establishments on campus, said in an emailed statement to The Mercury that it was aware of the Reddit posts that were made.
“The health and safety of our guests is always our top priority,” the statement said. “While we cannot confirm if the images associated with the post originated at our location, as a matter of caution, our Quality Assurance team has been engaged to thoroughly and swiftly investigate this matter and ensure that our high-quality assurance standards are continuously upheld at UT Dallas.”
According to records in a database maintained by the City of Richardson’s Health Department, the last health inspection at Dining Hall West was conducted on July 19, and the facility received a score of 91 out of 100. iHOP Express’s last health inspection was conducted on August 30, and it received a score of 95 out of 100.
Bill Alsup, the City of Richardson’s director of health, said the Health Department follows the Texas Food Establishment rules as part of the Texas Department of State Health Services, which cover issues such as food temperatures, storage temperatures, hygiene, personal sanitation and equipment sanitation. Alsup said the department generally conducts unannounced inspections twice a year at every restaurant or store within the Richardson area.
“We show up, we contact the manager and let them know we’re there so they’re not scared of people coming into their kitchens and all,” Alsup said. “We start walking through the facilities, food prep, dishwash, cold storage, dry storage, looking and poking with thermometers in hand.”
Janice Tower, an environmental health manager, said health inspections involve a point system, with the most serious violations involving greater point deductions.
Alsup said the Health Department received six to eight phone calls from individuals with complaints regarding food quality at UTD food establishments. He said most of the calls were about the same incidents and pictures found on the Reddit page.
“We started getting calls from people that hadn’t even been to the stores or been to the restaurants, so they called in to complain,” Alsup said. “They weren’t the ‘victims’ for receiving the food — it was just stuff they’d seen, and they were reporting on it.”
Alsup said an inspector from the health department conducted two complaint inspections on Nov. 29 in response to the incidents, two days after the initial Reddit posts were made. He said complaint inspections differ from normal, routine inspections in that complaint inspections are much shorter and directly address the specific complaint in question.
“These are snapshot inspections,” Alsup said. “We’re not in there every day or every month — we’re there for whatever length of time, whether it’s an hour or two hours, depending on the scope of the facility, and we see what we see while we’re there.”
Alsup said the inspector saw no moldy bread and was told by management at the time that they had an incident involving moldy bread after Thanksgiving break, but had since gone through the stock and got rid of it. He said the same scenario applied to the chicken, and that inspectors were checking if the chicken came out of the fryer at the correct temperature of 165 degrees.
“We checked and checked, and it seemed to be working, the process is OK, the rules are OK, we’re not seeing anything wrong and we’re not seeing any undercooked chicken. Does that mean it didn’t happen? No,” Alsup said. “It may have been one time, somebody was in a hurry, they didn’t count right, they didn’t check the timer, but that’s just me guessing. They’re snapshot inspections.”
Tower said the inspector visited with Chartwells management to ensure they were aware of the complaint and that they would address it.
Martin said he posted about his experience being served undercooked chicken on Reddit in an effort to bring attention to the issue.
“I posted to the Reddit because I’m fed up with it and there were other people were posting their bad experiences,” he said. “Honestly, nothing would make me happier than if there were some social outreach about it.”