Broccoli bug at Ban Righ

Student finds larvae in lunch

MacNicholas found a caterpillar in her Ban Righ meal.
MacNicholas found a caterpillar in her Ban Righ meal.

On Tuesday, Lena MacNicholas grabbed her lunch in the Ban Righ cafeteria, and found a caterpillar in her broccoli.

The last academic year saw four similar incidents reported out of one million meals served, according to Housing and Ancillary Services.

MacNicholas, ArtSci ’17, said she picked up her curry chicken and broccoli meal from an area of the cafeteria, which serves different meals daily. She described the bug as being dead and cooked.

“I was just sitting down to eat, moved a piece of broccoli and lo and behold, a caterpillar kind of fell out,” she said.

After finding the caterpillar, MacNicholas said she didn’t contact any of the cafeteria staff members.

“I’m not even that disturbed by it,” she said. “All of my friends are freaking out ... it’s just a bug.

“It didn’t seem like that big of a deal.” William Bendena, a biology professor specializing in insect molecular biology and biochemistry, identified the bug based on a photo MacNicholas posted on the Overheard at Queen’s Facebook page.

“It resembles the diamondback moth larvae which is a common pest of vegetables in Ontario. But this is not a definite ID, just a guess,” he told the Journal via email.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food identifies the larvae as one of the three major caterpillar pests of Ontario crucifer crops, named for their cross-shaped flowers. This group of crops includes broccoli.

Vegetables are likely to have larvae in them if they are not washed properly, Bendena said, adding that the larvae often go undetected despite repeated inspections.

“Accidentally eating a moth larvae is unlikely to have any detrimental effects,” Bendena said.

Despite this, he said suppliers could carry out more inspections to prevent similar contaminations.

“People are probably ingesting them without even knowing it and they’re not harmful,” he said.

Bruce Griffiths, the executive director of Housing and Ancillary Services, said this isn’t the first time something like this has occurred, but there’s a process for prevention.

“I cannot say it has never happened before,” he told the Journal via email. “We carefully inspect fresh produce for insects — this is the best and only measure other than ceasing to use fresh products.”

Griffiths said food found to be contaminated with insects should have been immediately pulled from the preparation process.

“The student did not come forward at the time and this is regrettable, as we would have pulled the broccoli from the line and taken any remaining product out of service,” he told the Journal via email.

He added he only became aware of the incident after viewing a photo posted by MacNicholas on Tuesday on the Overheard at Queen’s Facebook page.

“The only option to completely eradicate the insect population is the heavy application of pesticides,” he said,adding that the school supports farmers who offer organic products and limit the use of pesticides.

Mairi McGowan, ArtSci ’14, found a larger quantity of the same bug in a bag of raisins which she purchased at a grocery store last Monday.

“As I was putting some on my food ... [and] something caught my eye ... I looked in, and the bag was full of worms,” she said.

She did not disclose the name of the store, but said that it was in Kingston.

“I realize that these things happen and I don’t really want to throw them under the bus for it,” she said.

“I brought them to the bin that I got ... [the raisins] from and talked to them about maybe just checking it out and cleaning it out entirely, and they said they would look into it,” she said.

She said the incident won’t prevent her from shopping at the store in the future.

“They were really embarrassed. And thought that it was pretty gross,” she said.


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