Inedible plastic allegedly discovered in spinach by students at Brown Dining Hall

Elizabeth Ritch

News Writer 

eritch@unca.edu

Picture taken by Keithon Turner of plastic allegedly found in food, used with permission

Two UNC Asheville students said they received a distasteful surprise when they found plastic hiding in the cooked spinach they bought from Brown Dining Hall.

“It was a lot,” said Keithon Turner, a sophomore studying new media. “A whole or part of a spinach cover.” 

Turner said he eats at the dining hall two or three times a day. Prior to finding the alleged packaging in his food, he said he had little issue with the quality of the food.

“It is not the best but it gets the job done,” Turner said.

The sophomore said he found the plastic in cooked spinach from the vegan food section of the dining hall. Turner said he did not report the inedible ingredient right away, but he plans on doing so soon.

“Now I plan on doing it because I heard one of my friends, Baye, found plastic in her food.” Turner said.

Baye Samodal, a sophomore psychology and health and wellness student, said she found a piece of plastic in her spinach the day after Turner posted about his allegedly contaminated food on Snapchat. 

“They were posting about how there was a lot of plastic in their food. The next day, I had the tiny piece in my food,” Samodal said. “It seemed like it was just that batch because other than those two times that it happened, including my own, I have not heard of anything else.”

Samodal said she eats in Brown three times a week and has not discovered any plastic in her food before this incident.

Brooks Casteel, director of dining services at UNCA, said Chartwells has not received any complaints about students uncovering plastic trash in their food. 

“Our number one priority is the safety and well-being of our students and our guests,” Casteel said. “Our last health inspection took place in November of last year with a 97 and our dining facility was given an A rating.”

Miriam Juarez, a Chartwells staff member, said the first action taken upon receiving a report of plastic in someone’s meal would be to have the student bring it to an associate member.

“Right after the student finds something in the food, we ask them not to touch it,” Juarez said. 

She said photos are taken of the food and contaminates as soon as possible.

After asking the student if they ate any of the food, Brown Dining Hall staff immediately brings the questionable food to the manager on duty, according to Juarez.

She said all food in the dining hall is inspected for quality and safety by the manager on duty before it is available for consumption. She said every employee is trained on how to handle food properly, as well as the proper handling and disposal of non-food objects in the kitchen.

No one working in direct contact with the food in Brown Dining Hall could be reached for comment.

Samodal said she does not plan on reporting the incident to Chartwells.

“I personally would not report it just because it did not seem like a lot,” Samodal said. 

Casteel said she encourages anyone who discovers issues with their food at UNCA to report it immediately.  

“We take food safety concerns very seriously and work closely with our internal quality assurance team as well as third party specialist to thoroughly investigate any matter that is brought to us,” said the university dining services director.

According to Casteel and Juarez, the kitchens at UNCA are inspected regularly.

“We encourage any guests with questions or concerns to reach out to us directly,” Casteel said.

 

The dining services director said anyone with grievances about the food Chartwells 

provides should call them at their main office’s number: 828-251-6183.

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