Multiple students found bugs or larvae in their dishes at Red Radish. | Courtesy of Madelyn Gagnon

Over the past week, several students have reported finding bugs or larvae in their salads from Red Radish.

A few students, including environmental earth and soil science freshman Caroline Shepperd and business administration freshman Madelyn Gagnon, have posted pictures of the bugs to Facebook.

“I had a piece of kale and it had these weird little beads on it,” Gagnon said. “I realized it was some sort of bug egg, and posted a picture on the Cal Poly Class of 2019 Facebook page. Someone told me it was stinkbug eggs.”

Sociology freshman Amy Duncan expressed fear that this is a recurring issue.

“I was five or six bites in, and there was this big black blob on my fork,” Duncan said. “It was a beetle. At that point I wasn’t going to eat the rest of the salad, so I walked it over to the people working at Red Radish and they were like, ‘Oh, again?’”

Ellen Curtis, Director of Marketing and Communication for Cal Poly Corporation, said there have only been two reported incidents this year.

“At campusdining@calpoly.edu, which is the main email address, we have gotten two emails,” she said. “We got a third email from a student who said he had heard, so a total of three emails. Two actual incidents reported.”

Curtis explained that bugs are more of a risk when organic produce is used.

“It’s going to happen with organic products,” Curtis said. “Last year we served over 80,000 pounds of lettuces. It’s a lot … and you have to be really diligent with the organic products.”

According to Curtis, the only produce which has had a problem with “debris” is the kale. Cal Poly’s organic kale is supplied by San Miguel Produce, a small grower in Oxnard.

“It was determined that in the two incidents that were reported, (the produce affected) was kale,” Curtis said. “It’s interesting, because of all those products, kale is our organic product. We then we linked that back to the grower, who is in Oxnard … once we heard about it, we found the box of kale, we inspected it and we tossed it.”

Some students, including Shepperd, were not reassured by this explanation.

“I don’t really care if it’s organic or not,” Shepperd said. “I mean, I just don’t want to eat bugs.”

Duncan, who has grown and worked with organic produce in the past, said that finding beetles was a bit disconcerting.

“It’s more ants and aphids than it is beetles,” Duncan said. “I feel like that beetle is kind of foreign.”

According to Curtis, the students are trained in food safety, and all the produce comes pre-washed.

“All of the employees go through typical food-handling safety,” Curtis said. “At Red Radish, 90 percent of the staff is students, and so they come and go, but they all get trained. They’re all told when they open the boxes — because all the lettuce comes in pre-washed bags — (to) open up the bags, toss it in the bowl, and inspect it to make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen.”

Gagnon is now hesitant to go back to Red Radish.

“I don’t frequently eat at other places on campus,” Gagnon said. “Red Radish is my five-days-a-week place.”

Some students, like Duncan, rely on Red Radish for their specific diets.

“I’m a vegetarian,” Duncan said, “so Red Radish was my go-to place because it was, in my opinion, the best place to get vegetarian-friendly food. But not really anymore.”

For students interested in helping improve Campus Dining, Curtis suggests joining the Student Dining Committee.

“Last year’s committee was really integral in changing the meal plans for freshmen to all Plu$ Dollars,” Curtis said. “It’s really an effective organization for students, so if they’re into food and food safety and want new venues, that is a place where they could be empowered to do so.”

“I guess that I hope this problem gets fixed,” Gagnon said, “and that this happens less frequently.”

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