Here’s something else to be thankful for: Temple’s eateries aren’t dishing out enemas.
The rumor that dining halls add laxatives to foods served in cafeterias has been circulating throughout college bathrooms for years.
The rumor comes and goes, semester to semester, according to the Director of Administration for Sodexo Peter Beers, who has worked at Temple for 14 years. Sodexo works in partnership with Temple Dining Services.
“The problem is the rumor exists not just here, but at every college in every situation and it will wax and wane with the semesters,” Beers said. “The new students are told by the upperclassmen, ‘Don’t eat in the cafeteria, they put laxatives in the food. It’s self-perpetuating because the freshmen who were told that last year will tell the freshmen the next year.”
A common misconception is that dining halls add laxatives to stimulate excretion of bacteria such as salmonella, botulism and E. coli in the event of food poisoning.
But an expedited process of emission has no effect on eliminating symptoms of food poisoning and potential lawsuits to the university.
“Once the food goes in your mouth, the process of contamination starts,” said Kimberly Buck, a senior research technician and laboratory supervisor for the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology.
“Your body knows there is something that shouldn’t be there.”
Beers also said laxatives don’t effectively detoxify the body after contamination.
“The basic premise to stave off contaminated food is unrealistic because the contamination would enter the body much faster than the laxatives could get the food out,” Beers said.
Each week Sodexo serves approximately 56,000 meals a week at the Louis J. Esposito Dining Court and the Student Center’s Valaida S. Walker Food Court, according to Beers.
“If any one product was contaminated with a food-borne illness pathogen, there would be dozens, if not hundreds, of people affected and sick,” Beers said.
Though some may experience symptoms of diarrhea after frequenting campus eateries, registered dietitian for Temple Dining Services Julie Rhule advises students to take a closer look at the foods they are eating.
“If you’re choosing just fried foods and you’re not including salad and fruits and vegetables, that may cause some General Index distress. But everybody is very unique.” Rhule said.
“What may cause problems for me is very different than what may cause problems
for someone else. It’s just making sure you’re choosing things from the broad picture and working healthy items in as well.”
Before pointing fingers at cafeteria food, students should first examine their eating and drinking patterns outside of Johnson and Hardwick and the Student Center. A little too much alcohol and pizza on a Saturday night may lead to an unpleasant experience at Sunday morning brunch.
“Alcohol acts as a poison. It goes through your intestine and it inflames all the micro villi that are in your intestine,” Rhule said.
“The next time you are eating it reacts, and you can see this dumping syndrome that can occur.”
Rhule said you have to know your body and how it reacts to different foods and beverages.
“Realize what you’re putting in your mouth and if you have an adverse effect, think about what you ate that day and try to avoid it or make different choices,” she said.
Will Temple Dining Services ever be able to flush this urban myth of surreptitious mass medication?
“Not likely,” Beers said. “But the honest to God’s truth is there is no justification for putting laxatives in food by any company, at restaurants or in cafeterias — it’s just wrong.”
Leigh Zaleski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.