RoyalMnandi pumps up food safety awareness

Vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, and fever. These are some of the symptoms of food poisoning that students were taught to identify at the main dining hall’s food safety awareness session on Tuesday.

The event, hosted by RoyalMnandi and the Wits Services Department, was aimed at informing students about food safety procedures.

This took place after recent incidents of hygiene issues in the main dining hall in the Matrix.

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN: Students scan their hands for germs before having a meal at the dining hall.  Photo: Dineo Bendile

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN: Students scan their hands for germs before having a meal at the dining hall.
Photo: Dineo Bendile

Main dining hall a repeat offender

In April the Wits Vuvuzela published an article about a student who had found a worm in her burger. In May, another student reported she was ill after eating a meal from the main dining hall. Both students claimed that RoyalMnandi had not been very helpful in addressing their problems. These reports informed the dining hall’s decision to host the food safety session.

Operations administrator  at the main dining hall, Bontle Mogapi said that informing individual students about food safety did not benefit the broader student community, who could face similar situations or have queries in future. Mogapi said students were not aware of the responsibility they had towards food safety.

“It’s the little things that you see them doing in the dining hall that made us realise that they really do not know about personal hygiene and just the general hygiene of food handling,” she said.

Students were given a booklet detailing the difference between food poisoning and food illness and highlighting the importance of hand hygiene.

GERM DETECTION: Students were shocked at the amount of germs carried on their hands.  Photo:Dineo Bendile

GERM DETECTION: Students were shocked at the amount of germs carried on their hands.
Photo:Dineo Bendile

Testing their knowledge

Students were given a quiz to showcase their knowledge of food safety procedures.  A lucky draw gave students the opportunity to win prize hampers.

Ashlan Raju, 3rd year BAccSci, was grateful that the dining hall finally had the session.

“They don’t use gloves at the main dining hall. So I found that as a problem, but now they kind of make us aware of why they don’t use gloves, which I think is quite a good thing to do,” Raju said.

The results from a study, reviewed during the session, showed that staff members who did not wear gloves were inclined to sanitise their hands on a regular basis.

Wearing gloves gave a false sense of security as glove fragments could end up in food and undetected holes in gloves could release bacteria from moist hands into food.

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“Royal” food poisoning leaves bad taste

JUST one month after the Wits Vuvuzela reported the discovery of a worm in a burger, food services provider RoyalMnandi has come under the spotlight again, this time for an allegation of food poisoning.

The alleged food poisoning happened on Sunday, May 5, when a first year law student of the University of Witwatersrand went to the main dining hall to have her lunch—a toasted chicken and mayonnaise sandwich.

After eating only half of the sandwich, she started experiencing body aches. Later that evening, she broke into a fever.

By Monday the student was unable to leave her bed.

She called Campus Control and was taken to hospital. The diagnosis: a stomach infection that had gone through to her blood stream and caused a blood infection.

According to the doctors, the most likely cause of the infection was an item of food she had eaten within the previous 24 hours.

“And the only thing I had eaten was from the dining hall,” she said.

A "ROYAL" LETDOWN: Students enjoy a meal in the main dining hall on East Campus. Photo: Dineo Bendile

A “ROYAL” LETDOWN: Students enjoy a meal in the main dining hall on East Campus.
Photo: Dineo Bendile

 

 

A representative from RoyalMnandi was unable to comment on the matter and referred the Wits Vuvuzela to the deputy head of services, Joanne Rowan, who was out of office.

The student spent Monday night in hospital on a drip line.  She was then released after her fever broke and went to stay with her family as she was still too weak to be on her own.

“I was supposed to be admitted, but I didn’t want to because I was scared. I have no immediate family here [Johannesburg], just distant cousins,” she said.

An ongoing problem

The student alleges that this was not the first time that food from the main dining hall had made her ill.

“When I moved here in the beginning of the year, I could barely stomach the food. It wasn’t because it was bad, it was because my system wasn’t used to the oil and things that they were using.”

But none of her prior experiences could compare to the seriousness of her recent ordeal.

The student claims that it took her approximately three days after the incident before she could stomach a full meal.

The student said she was having difficulties reaching the dining hall’s operations administrator to report her issue.

In April, the Wits Vuvuzela reported that a student had found a worm in a chicken burger patty from the main dining hall. Just a month before that, students wrote a letter to Vice Chancellor Adam Habib to address the issue of poor service by RoyalMnandi.

Refurbished dining hall for Res students

The new dining hall can seat up to 450 people. Students can choose to sit at the bar-like area, att ables or on the new benches.

The new dining hall can seat up to 450 people. Students can choose to sit at the bar-like area, at tables or on the new benches. Photo: Provided.

Convocation dining hall is the second dining hall on Wits campus that recently underwent a face-lift.

The dining hall has been refurbished in a more contemporary style with views of the surrounding grounds, and a wider variety of food.

After the final refurbishments have been completed, the renovations will amount to approximately R5,6 million of which half was funded by the South African government and the other half by Wits alumni. Catering provider RoyalMnandi invested a R1 million in equipment for the facility.

Part of having a good education is not only having excellent lecturers, lecturing facilities and good accommodation, but also having access to excellent catering facilities and extramural facilities, said Professor Tawana Kupe, deputy vice-chancellor of finance and operations, during the official opening of the hall.

“You can’t be an excellent student if you are not in good health. And you can’t be in good health if you don’t have a good nutrition. And you can’t have good nutrition in a terrible facility where you are looking at the back of a dilapidated building.”

Kupe said the refurbished dining hall is the kind of standard the university wants, with a nice, open environment, good architecture and good nutrition.

“What you eat and what you see is bon appetit.”

Director of Services, Theresa Main said the aim of the Wits service department is to create an “eat safe campus” and to ensure that a safe eating environment is monitored.

“We are enhancing the dining environment and simultaneously enhancing the food variety.”

The menu items at the dining hall now include pizzas, pastas, stirfry’s and a chicken rotisserie. The hall currently has a seating capacity of 450, but outdoor wooden decks will be built next to the hall to accommodate another 50 seats.

Free wi-fi has been installed and soon, big TV screens for students to watch what they please will follow said Joanne Rowan, deputy director of catering and retail. Students can also take their music and ask for it to be played in the hall.

Rowan said the dining hall has never had a food scare and emphasised that the standards in the dining halls are the same.

Rowan said  she has received positive feedback from the students. “They enjoy the dining hall. They actually spend time sitting here. It’s inviting. Students can socialize with each other.”

Rowan said she hoped that the hall would be used for future student events. “I think it will become a popular place.”

Carl Msiza (BComm Honours in Development Economics), eats at the Convocation dining hall twice a day. Msiza said the new dining hall is “definitely better” than the main dining hall.

“It’s got an ambience.” When asked about the food he said: “ It’s better than most Royal Mnandi dining halls and the staff are extremely friendly.”

Vice chairperson of the David Webster Residence, Innocentia Kgaphola is happy with the change in food variety and said students are more social in the dining hall.

But she said some students believe the standards are not the same and have voiced concerns over the pricing.

“I still believe there’s always room for improvement.”