OSCA No Longer Allowed to Serve Leftovers

Ian Seeley, Managing Editor

On March 1, the Lorain County General Health District denied the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association’s application to continue functioning as a licensed risk level IV food service operation. OSCA will now operate as a risk level III operation instead.

In practical terms, this means that co-ops can no longer save leftover food and serve it for future meals.

Despite its new risk level status, OSCA is still allowed to feed its 620 members, although some cooking practices will likely be adjusted. In an e-mail sent to OSCA staff by OSCA Food Safety Coordinator Rachel Beiser, Beiser wrote, “This change will require very careful planning by head cooks to find the balance between providing enough food for everyone and avoiding excessive waste.”

Beiser did not respond to requests for an interview. OSCA President and College senior Dylan Rees declined to comment.

College junior Brook Luers, a head cook in Old Barrows co-op, expressed concerns similar to those expressed in Beiser’s email, but also foresees other negative effects as a result of OSCA’s change in risk level status. “I think it definitely will harm people who can’t come to [12:20 p.m. and 6:20 p.m.] meal times, especially athletes. … I think they usually have practice in the afternoons, so if they don’t come exactly at a meal time … there will now be no prepared food available,” Luers said.

Luers, however, also noted some, albeit small, benefits. “For the people who clean up after meals, it’s probably less work because … it takes more attention to make sure you’re handling the leftovers correctly. … Now you just throw it in the compost and be done with it,” Luers said.

OSCA’s change in risk level status comes after a round of routine health inspections found health code violations in some of OSCA’s co-ops. In her report on Tank co-op, Dorothy Kloos, a registered sanitarian for the Lorain County General Health District, wrote that during interim, a time when tasks at the co-op are yet to be assigned, “students that volunteered were not adequately trained by OSCA as persons in charge” and that “it appears that OSCA allows their kitchens to operate without the necessary public health controls.”

The report also documented food items in Tank stored improperly at temperatures above 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

Two weeks ago, an illness outbreak affected several students eating at Tank. According to James Boddy, the director of environmental health for the Lorain County General Health District, the illness was unrelated to the decision to change OSCA’s risk level status, calling the timing of both events “coincidental.”

Boddy, who oversees food inspection operations for Lorain County, said that OSCA is in no danger of being closed permanently.

Typically, food service licenses, such as OSCA’s, last for one calendar year, allowing OSCA to reapply for a risk level IV license next February.

According to Boddy, the higher risk level given to food service operations serving reheated food comes from the increased amount of time food spends in the “danger temperature zone,” that is, temperatures in which food is more susceptible to bacteria growth that could in turn spread or cause illness.

In risk level IV food service operations, food usually enters the danger temperature zone between the food’s initial preparation and the time it takes for the food’s internal temperature to drop during refrigeration. When re-serving stored food, an increased risk is also present because leftover food, if reheated improperly, could still contain high levels of bacteria.