UTC students and other diners at Crossroads, the campus’ only all-you-can-eat cafeteria, will soon be able to feast on chicken again.
The meat – identified as a likely cause of a recent outbreak of a food-borne illness among students – could possibly be back on Crossroads menus as soon as Wednesday, according to Chuck Cantrell, the school’s associate vice chancellor of Communication and Marketing.
He said students have been asking when chicken will be available again since Crossroads stopped serving it.
That occurred because chicken was linked to the cases of 25 students who ate at Crossroads between Aug. 19-21, and began seeking treatment soon afterwards for symptoms related to digestive distress: prolonged diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and chills.
After health department epidemiologists reported finding cases of both salmonella and campylobacter, he said, UTC Chancellor Roger Brown sent a memo to all faculty, staff and students alerting them of the situation.
“Aramark, which operates UTC’s dining facilities, and UTC staff—including Student Health, Auxiliaries, and Safety and Risk Management—have been cooperating fully with health department officials,” the memo said.
“As soon as (UTC) Student Health (Services) and the health department became aware of the illnesses,” it continued, “inspection of campus food services began, which resulted in scores of 95 and 99. Health Department staff also spent time over several days observing UTC food service workers during food preparation and service.”
The outbreak has made news across the nation, as well as noted by attorneys who handle litigation related to food-borne illnesses.
For example, "Campylobacter and Salmonella Outbreak at University of Tennessee Chattanooga," a headline in the Marler Blog – the online voice of personal injury lawyer and specialist in food-borne illness litiation William Marler of Seattle, WA – noted Monday.
The full text of the Sept. 9 memo sent by Dr. Brown to UTC faculty, staff and students regarding the situation reads as follows:
I want to inform you that the UTC administration and the Chattanooga Hamilton County Health Department are working together to conduct an investigation into the cause of an illness affecting several of our students and staff.
Since Aug. 20, (about) 25 individuals have been identified with symptoms related to digestive distress, including prolonged diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and chills. The Health Department has confirmed cases of both salmonella and campylobacter. The Health Department has informed us that these results are suggestive of a chicken product but it is uncertain at this time. A specific source of the illness has not been identified and the investigation is ongoing.
The number of students reporting these symptoms has dropped dramatically, and we continue to work with Health Department officials to monitor the situation. Both salmonella and camplyobacter can cause the symptoms presented. Illness may last five to seven days and most persons do not require treatment other than oral fluids.
Although all of the chicken products from the time of the initial exposure are no longer being served, Crossroads has pulled all chicken products from its menu until we are assured that they are safe. Additionally, all preparation and handling procedures for chicken are being reviewed by Aramark and Health Department officials.
Aramark, which operates UTC’s dining facilities, and UTC staff—including Student Health, Auxiliaries, and Safety and Risk Management—have been cooperating fully with Health Department officials. As soon as Student Health and the Health Department became aware of the illnesses, inspection of campus food services began, which resulted in scores of 95 and 99. Health Department staff also spent time over several days observing UTC food service workers during food preparation and service.
After a thorough examination of UTC dining facilities, the source of the illness remains unknown. UTC dining facilities, including Crossroads, have been inspected by the Health Department several times, and to date, no specific problems have been found. In fact, while serving thousands of meals each day, UTC dining continues to earn high marks for its food preparation and serving safety procedures.
Aramark officials have also been in touch with their food suppliers to ensure food quality.
The University is committed to the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors, and we continue to work with the Health Department to monitor health conditions on campus.
We encourage students or employees who experience prolonged diarrhea, fever and chills—or who may have done so recently—to contact the Student Health Service at 425-2266 or the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department at 423 209-8190.
Dr. Richard Brown
Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance, Operations, and Information Technology