UPDATED at 10:50 a.m.
A student claims she found a mouse in her food at Morgan Dining Hall on Feb. 5, and a city food inspector discovered mouse droppings in the dining hall’s kitchen about one week later.
Sophomore journalism major Kaylee Politz said she saw what looked like a tail on her plate after getting rotisserie chicken and Spanish rice from the dining hall for dinner. Before taking a bite, she pulled the piece of meat out and discovered what she alleges was a mouse.
“I got really sick to my stomach,” Politz said. “To think, I could’ve eaten that.”
Aramark claims the photo is an image of a chicken wing, not a mouse, a spokesperson said in a statement to The Temple News.
The city inspected Morgan Dining Hall’s kitchen on Wednesday and found mouse droppings along the perimeter of the kitchen’s hallway and underneath food equipment, according to city records. The inspection report states the kitchen needs to be cleaned in problem areas, and until it is, Morgan Dining Hall is in violation of the Philadelphia Health Code.
A Snapchat photo Politz’s friend posted of her food with the alleged mouse and it went viral throughout the Temple University community. Politz decided not to bring the food to Temple Dining Services employees’ attention and threw away the dish, she said.
Aramark, the university’s dining services provider, and Temple University called the photo a “hoax” two days later.
“We have determined that the image posted on social media is a hoax with no connection to any of the University’s dining locations,” wrote Kasey Marsicano, a spokesperson for Aramark, in an email to The Temple News on Feb. 7. Dining Services posted a similar statement on its Instagram page that day.
This prompted Politz to contact Aramark with her account of what she found.
Once Politz contacted Aramark with more photos and information about her meal, Aramark confirmed the Snapchat photo came from Morgan Dining Hall, Marsicano wrote. But because Politz did not bring the dish to Dining Services staff right away, Aramark representatives “are not able to authenticate it.”
“However, based on looking at the photo and what was on the menu last Tuesday, it appears to have been a chicken wing,” Marsicano wrote on Wednesday. Aramark’s “culinary experts” reviewed the photo, she added.
Because of its recent rodent violation, the city can order Morgan Dining Hall to temporarily close if it deems the violation a serious enough threat to public safety, according to Department of Public Health procedures. Morgan Dining Hall did not close, but because the inspector found a food safety risk factor, the city has the option to require another inspection within 30 business days, like it did in 2017.
In September 2017, Morgan Dining Hall’s kitchen had two inspections, six days apart, where inspectors found mouse feces, according to city records. On Sept. 21, 2017, inspectors observed “physical evidence of rodent(mouse)…activity” in Morgan’s washing and storage area. On Sept. 27, 2017, the kitchen received a repeat violation for not having disinfected floor perimeters with “old mouse feces.”
Representatives from the Department of Public Health could not be immediately reached for comment.
Dining Services contracts a “reputable pest control company” to regularly inspect and treat the university’s culinary facilities, Marsicano wrote in an email to The Temple News on Monday. She wrote if there are violations observed during the city’s inspections, they are corrected on site.
However, the city’s inspection report from Wednesday did not note that the rodent violation was immediately corrected.
A three-year Dining Services worker at Morgan, whose name was withheld to protect their employment, said the plate in the photo looks similar to the dining hall’s plates. It’s highly unlikely, however, a mouse made its way into food, especially on the second floor of the building, the worker said.
The worker has never seen a mouse on the second level of the Morgan Dining Hall, but the downstairs food court has traps set up for rodents and often catches them, they said.
“We get inspected in here, and you don’t even see any mice up here at all,” the worker said. “They’d only be downstairs, and they have traps down there to catch them. We don’t see nothing up here, nothing.”
The university’s pest control contractors “use various tactics to ensure we get the desired results,” Marsicano wrote about the mouse traps.
Politz has a meal plan, but she does not know if she’ll return to Dining Services any time soon.
“I haven’t been there since,” she said. “That makes me question what environment my food is being prepared in.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Kaylee Politz’s last name. It has been corrected.