The discovery of a worm in a burger at the Wits main dining hall reported in Wits Vuvuzela last week was not a unique find, although the university claims incidents like this are rare.

There have been previous food scare alerts – about one every six to nine months. Last year, a worm was found on a piece of broccoli at Jubilee Hall, said Joanne Rowan, deputy director of Wits Catering and Retail.

However, Rowan said very few of these incidents happen.

Rowan was at the dining hall when the most recent worm was found and said the type of worm found was not associated with vegetables.

“It’s the first time that I see that type of worm.” [pullquote align=”right”]”It happened. We can’t deny it.”[/pullquote]

Rowan was speaking at the opening of the Convocation dining hall on West Campus on Tuesday.

Last week, Wits Vuvuzela reported that a student had discovered a worm in her chicken burger at the main dining hall.

An investigation to discover where the chicken burger came from has been launched. A food sample has been sent for testing.

Rowan said it was part of the catering business that a few incidents like this did occur.  “It happened. We can’t deny it. It’s part of reality.  We have to deal with it.”

She said that, of the reported incidents of food contamination at Wits so far, tests had shown the food samples were not dangerous.

[pullquote]“It is not possible that you can 100 percent not have an incident like that.”[/pullquote]Rowan defended food safety at Wits and said the university’s four dining halls were Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certified, making Wits the only university in Africa to have the certification.

The certification means contamination in food served at Wits can be traced through the supply chain, all the way to a farmer.

Rowan said she expected to have a report on the recent food scare soon.

Prof Tawana Kupe, deputy vice chancellor (finance and operations), said the worm was “unfortunate”.

“It is not possible that you can 100% not have an incident like that,” Kupe said.

He said the university should take steps to ensure the problem was not commonplace and food quality standards were maintained.

Kupe said samples of food dished out in the dining halls were kept over a number of days so they could be tested for contamination.

The university does not make all the food, with some of it bought pre-prepared.  Kupe said food providers should be asked whether they were supplying the university with fresh food and there should be an independent means of checking the quality.