A University of Miami student recently took to social media after she was served raw chicken by the on-campus dining vendor, Burger305.
On Wed. Nov. 13, Lizette Rosa, a junior majoring in health science and sociology, found herself eating two out of three chicken tenders she was served, which she described as “pink,” “squishy” and “raw.”
“I couldn’t even look at it anymore,” Rosa said of the moment she noticed the state of her meal. “I immediately felt nauseous and disgusting.”
Rosa took a picture of her chicken and posted it to her Twitter account (@woahlizette) Nov. 13 at 8:54 p.m. The photos quickly spread among the student body.
The photo showed a piece of the chicken cut in half. Inside the breading, the meat appeared raw, looking pink, fleshy and gelatinous.
She also tagged the university’s official Twitter page (@univmiami) and University of Miami Dining (@UMDining). She concluded the tweet with a marked hashtag, “#rawchickenattheU”.
Other users responded to the tweet with frustration and concern. Twitter user @lcorreagonzales urged Rosa to take action. “Omg! File a complaint! ASAP! Unacceptable!” she tweeted.
Not only did several students reply in shock to the unpalatable chicken, but many were inspired to share their own frustrating experiences.
User @nicoleblzrmz responded by sharing a photo of undercooked chicken that she alleges the Mahoney-Pearson Dining Hall served her about a year ago.
She concluded the tweet by stamping the same hashtag, “#rawchickenattheU.” The tweet was later deleted.
Twitter user @thatgirllche shared the following video with the caption “disgust” that showed rare meat on her plate, which she said was served to her at the Mahoney-Pearson Dining Hall.
Alejandra Gutierrez, a senior majoring in biochemistry, shared a video Nov. 6 of a pan of pink chicken that she was served in one of the residential dining halls, adding the caption “Ain’t no way this chicken cooked.”
“I walked into the Mahoney Pearson Dining Hall and was going to eat and I saw that chicken and I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said Gutierrez. “The chicken was raw. I didn’t eat it but I was shocked they were even putting it out to serve students.”
Rosa said she was grateful that people spoke out about their own experiences.
“This is ridiculous,” she said. “It’s not just an isolated incident that I can move on and forget about. It’s campus-wide.”
After social media was flooded with the photo of Rosa’s raw chicken, she was contacted by Meagan Clements, the director of marketing and guest experience of Chartwells at the University of Miami, asking her to explain her grievances regarding the chicken she was served and requested to meet with her that same week.
“Once I realized what I had eaten, I was disgusted and immediately felt nauseous,” said Rosa in her email to Clements. “I am very concerned that I may have contracted salmonella or a foodborne illness from consuming raw chicken because I am not feeling well.”
In the same email, Rosa spoke on behalf of the students who replied to her tweet and several others.
“For the high prices that we pay for a meal plan, we deserve quality meals and we should not have to worry about whether or not our food is actually cooked,” she said.
Rosa was passionate about voicing her concern for the high costs of meal plans at UM. At Florida International University, a meal plan of 14-per-week and $150 dining dollars costs $1600 per semester, while the same plan at UM costs a student $2877 per semester. An unlimited plan with $250 at FIU costs $1800, while the unlimited plan with $100 dining dollars at UM costs more than double.
When she meets with Chartwells, Rosa plans on asking, “Where is the money going, if not to the proper preparation of our food?”
Maryam Jawid, a senior majoring in public health, pays close attention to the preparation of her food at the dining hall due to a severe allergy. She often asks the kitchen to cook her meat on a separate grill.
“I used to ask for them to grill me a plain piece of chicken and would wait for them to cook it. For some reason, it would be cooked in ten minutes some days and other days it would literally take 30 minutes,” said Jawid. “Several times they would serve me an uncooked chicken.”
Emphasized in her email, Rosa demanded compensation for herself and her peers who were affected by these campus-wide incidents. She plans to have a lawyer speak on her behalf in her meeting with Chartwells.
Despite many complaints, some students claim that the quality of food at the dining hall has gotten better from previous years. Mitchell Hueniken, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry, said that the dining hall has made improvements.
“I got food poisoning a couple of times last year and I think it was from the raw meat,” he said. “I have yet to get food poisoning this year.”
Jawid also commends the dining hall on being cooperative with her allergies.
“[UM Dining] really does help me out now and prepares plain stuff in advance for me that I pick up, so I definitely can’t complain about that,” she said.
Patricia Whitely, the Vice President of Student Affairs, forwarded Rosa’s message to the team that supervises the university’s contract with Chartwells.
Students reported being served raw chicken at other universities that have contracts with Chartwells including Piedmont College, University of Texas Dallas and Quinnipiac University.
In September 2018, a student at Piedmont College reported getting sick with food poisoning after eating a chicken sandwich that was served to her at the cafeteria which serves food provided by Chartwells.
In January 2019, several students at the University of Texas Dallas claimed that they were served cafeteria food from Chartwells that got them sick, including raw chicken, rare meat and moldy bread.
On Nov. 4, 2019, a Barstool Instagram account based in Quinnipiac University (@qubarstool) posted a photo of the raw chicken that was served to a student. The photo was captioned “Fresh and straight out of the package! Chartwells pumping out raw chicken like clockwork.”
UM Dining and Chartwells commented on Rosa’s incident and assured that they plan to take action.
“As soon as Dining Services was made aware of the two reported incidents of undercooked chicken served at the Hecht-Stanford Dining Hall and at Burger 305 in the Hurricane Food Court last week, we met with our food service provider, Chartwells to take immediate corrective action,” said UM Dining.
Chartwells plans on conducting a thorough assessment of equipment where chicken is cooked to ensure proper calibration, an audit by an independent third-party food safety inspector has been scheduled and re-training specific to food safety and chicken cooking processes will be reviewed with associates.
“Our goal is to deliver a safe, quality customer experience for all students, faculty, staff, and dining patrons,” said Chartwells in a statement.