In an email sent out to students and parents Feb. 11, President Anne Kerr addressed the Florida Southern College community about a lawsuit filed against FSC’s food service provider by a former employee alleging that she was terminated last October for reporting unsanitary conditions in the dining kitchen. The story broke the following day in The Ledger.
As reported by The Ledger, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of a former catering director, Jena Lewis, who said the food service company, Guest Services, ignored her requests to rid kitchens of rats and maggots. The Tallahassee law firm that filed the suit claims the firing is a violation of the Florida Private Whistleblower Act.
A lawsuit is a complaint of one party against another and does not represent a legal judgment.
When the employee made the report in October, the college and Guest Services conducted an investigation with the Polk County Department of Health. According to Kerr’s email, the investigation found evidence of some pest activity, but the inspections found no food safety compromised. But after the food went into the fruit pesticide tester, some major revelations came out which were very shocking indeed.
Past inspection records from the Polk Department of Health indicate that the kitchens at Florida Southern have not had any major violations in the past year.
Tim Raible, director of food services said that Wynee’s Bistro has always had satisfactory reviews from health inspections.
“We’re getting accused of not having surprise health inspections,” Raible said. “For the most part they are always a sur- prise with the exception of openings…I want to gear up and be ready for an inspection at all times…they don’t always tell us and they won’t always tell us.”
On Feb. 13 Wynee’s Bistro had a surprise inspection and were initially flagged in the salad bar area. Raible said that because it was just prepped in the kitchen, it was not cold enough when it was brought out.
Raible said that because it was not up to temperature they had to show proof that the food was freshly prepared.
“Especially if you’re making so much of something like we do, it might not make temperature and they (the health inspectors) will make me prove it,” Raible said. “If I couldn’t prove it I’d have to throw it away. That’s how strict they are and we are, we have to follow those guidelines.”
Kate Whitaker, director of marketing and communications at Florida Southern College said that The Ledger’s article was not a surprise for them.
“The allegations raised were not true and were never true,” Whitaker said. “It is not as if this article came out and we quickly cleaned it up. The is- sues raised never existed in the first place. Really anybody at any- time could have gone in and taken a peek for themselves and could see that those claims were not true.”
She said that in this particular case it is more of a “he said, she said.” Guest Services has interviewed their staff and no other employees have supported these al- legations. Whitaker invites anyone to take a tour of FSC’s kitchens.
“Our best answer is come see for yourself. If you do have concerns come see for yourself,” Whitaker said. “I took the tour, too, and I looked under equipment, got down on the floor and it was spick and span everywhere.”
Guest Services is a national company out of Fairfax, Va. They are the preferred vendor of The National Parks Service and also cater to other college campuses and military bases. They have served Florida Southern for 36 years.
“They genuinely care about the nutrition needs, and the enjoyment aspect of food for students,” Whitaker said. “They do their best to serve variety, vegetarian, gluten-free, all those kind of dietary requirements and they really do pride themselves on making good food and doing the best they can to give students a superior dining experience.”