Some 73 students and a college dean from Silliman University came down with symptoms of “food poisoning” after their respective acquaintance parties two weeks ago on Oct 1st.
As the VP Office for Development, Enterprise, & External Affairs continues with its investigation on the incident the past two weeks, the University Physician started administering last Friday, Oct. 14 a “Food-borne Disease Outbreak Questionnaire” for all SPAG and Masscom students.
Sixty-six percent (53 out of 80) of the students from the School of Public Affairs & Governance, and their Dean, and 31 percent (20 out of 66) of the students from the College of Mass Communication had complained of vomiting, stomach pain, headache, fever, and diarrhea.
A freshman was hospitalized for dehydration in a private hospital in Dumaguete, while the others had home medication after consulting their doctor. Two students from Masscom also went to the hospital for check-up after experiencing symptoms of “food poisoning.”
On the menu in the SPAG Society acquaintance party were Hawaiian chicken, rice, pancit guisado, macaroons, cucumber juice, and pink lemonade, ordered from the exclusive food supplier, SU Cafeteria. On the other hand, members of the Kapunungan sa mga Mass Communicators ordered buttered chicken and rice from the SU Caf. Students from the SPAG, including the freshman who was hospitalized, said the food served tasted different.
“The food was too gross so I wasn’t able to finish it. Specifically, the pancit tasted mushy,” she said. Day after the party, she said she vomited about four times, and was having diarrhea. She was too weak to move, and said she felt like she could hardly breathe, prompting her mother to take her to the Emergency Room.
“We just wanted to enjoy our party but what we got was diarrhea,” she lamented. “It was an irresponsible mistake,” she said, adding that the food supplier hopefully learned from the incident to ensure their food is “safe and healthy” as indicated in their slogan.
The Silliman Cafeteria slogan is “Serving healthy, delicious, home-cooked meals.”
By Oct. 3, Masscom Dean Dr. Madeline Quiamco submitted an incident report to Prof. Jane Annette Belarmino, vice president for Development, Enterprise, & External Affairs, who is currently leading the investigation on the food poisoning complaint.
Dolores Bejaresco, head of catering food service of SU Cafeteria assured that all the staff in their kitchen follow sanitation and safety measures. She said they had undergone medical examinations as a requirement upon employment, attended a food handler’s seminar, and had certificates from the Dumaguete City Health Office.
For their part, the SU Student Government has discussed with the SPAG Society and the KMC how best to help expedite the resolution of their complaints.
Even as the investigation is going on, SUSG President Christian Entrata urged the SU Cafeteria to improve its quality control and operations “considering they serve so many students every day”.
Marc Lirazan, governor of the SPAG Society, said, “We will fight [for our student rights] that the SU Cafeteria be held accountable, and will compensate [those who were victims of food contamination].”
He said this is not the first time something like this happened, recalling that even dorm residents in campus have been complaining of spoiled food delivered to them by the SU Cafeteria. “Wala jud siya na aksiyonan,” he lamented. He said it is worrisome it could “tarnish their reputation” as a popular food provider in the University Town.
Asked to comment on the recent complaints about the food contamination in campus, Dr. Edna Calingacion, dean of Student Services, said she is not involved in the on-going investigation of the incident. “My office is only responsible for accidental or medical-related problems,” she said.
She said that in the last two weeks, only two students who were hospitalized have sought medical support. She said her office processed their insurance benefits, covering the expenses the victims paid the hospital in advance.
She encouraged other students in need of medical assistance to approach the Student Services office at Oriental Hall so they can help with the insurance coverage. (SU Masscom Investigative Journalism class students)