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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 19, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Caterpillars found in food at Ithaca College’s Terrace Dining Hall

Sophomore Mike DiResto was eating dinner at Terrace Dining Hall Aug. 31 when he identified something peculiar in his chicken.  

DiResto was transferring chicken and peppers from the deli onto a plate with pasta when he saw a bug in his food.

“Honestly, I didn’t give a f—,” he said. “In hindsight, it’s kind of disappointing. Now my friends and I are examining our food before we eat it. It’s a different mindset going into the dining hall. It’s a less enjoyable experience.”  

His roommate, sophomore Max Kawakami, posted a picture of the bug to the official Facebook group for the Class of 2018, and the image received over 135 likes and over 30 comments.

Sophomore Max Kawakami, posted this picture to the official Facebook group for the Class of 2018, and the image received over 135 likes and over 30 comments. Courtesy of Max Kawakami

Sophomore Max Kawakami, posted this picture to the official Facebook group for the Class of 2018, and the image received over 135 likes and over 30 comments. Courtesy of Max Kawakami

Maya Patel, assistant professor of biology, examined the photo of the bug and identified it as a caterpillar.

Jeff Scott, area general manager for Sodexo, said Sodexo was aware of the claims and was thoroughly investigating.

“Food quality is absolutely critical. We strive for it. We work for it,” he said. “Sodexo and Ithaca College have been working very closely since these claims have been reported to us. Right now, we are in the investigatory process of these claims.”  

Scott is working with third-party inspectors and the supply chain to investigate the complaints.

Kawakami’s picture came three days after junior Kayla VandeSande posted a picture of a caterpillar in her salad from Terrace Dining Hall onto the same Facebook group page. In a comment she posted on the picture, VandeSande said a dining hall manager had told her  “sometimes this happens.”

VandeSande was eating dinner with a friend when her friend asked if she could try an artichoke from her salad. She picked up the artichoke with her fork, revealing the caterpillar underneath.

“I was so grossed out when I first saw the caterpillar. I completely lost my appetite,” VandeSande said. “[My friend] was completely grossed out as well because that piece she had put in her mouth was right on top of it, so she spit it out immediately.”

After the incident, VandeSande said she was “even more grossed out” about the fact that if her friend hadn’t picked up the extra piece, she would not have seen the caterpillar and would have eaten it.

“I was eating a salad that I made from the salad bar … and couldn’t continue eating much more after that,” VandeSande said. “I told the manager of Terraces, and she told me ‘sometimes this happens’ and took the bowl from me, and I’m assuming just threw it away without a second thought.”

Other students have since reacted to VandeSande’s post, ranging from humorous jokes to anger and disgust.

Patel examined the photos from both instances and said she was pretty sure both of the images were of caterpillars but different species.

“Most caterpillars are not harmful,” she said. “They are not delicious, but they’re not going to hurt you if you accidentally ingest one.”

Patel said the caterpillars do not eat meat, so the caterpillar that was in DiResto’s chicken likely did not hatch in the food but could have dropped from a tree or local produce.

Katherine Muma, an instructor in the Department of Biology, said both pictures were caterpillars, but without an actual specimen, it was impossible to make a completely accurate identification.  

“I don’t think it indicates necessarily any issues with food safety or food handling safety,” she said. “I would still eat there.”  

Patel said eating insects is more common than people think.

“You eat them all the time whether you know it or not,” Patel said. “You’re eating arthropod bits and pieces no matter what you eat. “There are bugs in all your food.”  

Ana Borruto contributed reporting.

Aidan Quigley can be reached at aquigley@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @QuigleyAidan

Sophia Tulp can be reached at stulp@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @sophia_tulp