In a rush, students can quickly purchase a drink or snack from one of a few dozen vending machines scattered throughout campus before heading to class.
Most vending machines carrying snacks and coffee are owned by First Class Vending Inc. Machines that contain soda and water are owned by PepsiCo Inc.
A peek inside a coffee machine on the first floor of McCarthy Hall may raise a few concerns; the part of the machine where the liquid emerges from is covered with residue and rust.
According to Cal State Fullerton’s food inspection reports, the last time the coffee vending machine was inspected was April 18 of last year. It was given an “A” rating for that inspection.
The California Retail Food Code section 114145 states: “A record of cleaning and sanitizing shall be maintained by the operator in each machine and shall be current for at least the past 30 days.”
But an examination of the soda vending machines located near the Kinesiology and Health Science Building shows layers of dirt covering the area where soda bottles come out.
Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Federation of America, said the university should certainly be seeing whether or not the owners are inspecting machines.
Colleen Wilkins is the Occupational Safety Officer for CSUF’s Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) staff. She is one of the people responsible for inspecting the vending machines.
Wilkins said EHS has not met with First Class Vending in a while.
“However, the snacks are pre-packaged. Sandwiches are dated, so we can do a walk by and check those. The coffee is also pre-packaged and mixed when you press what you wish to drink,” Wilkins said.
Vending machines are only inspected “as necessary.” She said the soda vending machines do not need to be inspected because there is no “potentially hazardous food involved.”
Karen Morgan Newe, the program Manager at the Food Safety Program at Orange County Environmental Health said, “Fortunately pre-packaged food is generally low risk. Problems that can occur can be vermin infestation and quality issues if older food items are not replaced.”
Justine Baldacci, a CSUF environmental health officer and food inspector, said soda machines are inspected visually, and discussions with staff are done to verify that the equipment is being cleaned and maintained.
One vending machine that operates differently is also the largest one on campus. Shop24, the large vending machine located between the Humanities Building and the Education Classroom Building, is stocked and maintained by Titan Shops.
The Titan Shops staff checks the product in the Shop24 machine on a daily basis, Monday through Friday.
“Currently we schedule staff 45 hours per week just to keep the machine stocked with product, to verify temperature and functionality of the machine and to check sell-by dates,” Titan Shops Director Kimberly Ball said.
The 45 hours include transportation of products from the store to the Shop24 machine.
But despite Titan Shops doing regular maintenance of Shop24, it is missing an inspection report grade on the Environmental Health and Safety website. Titan Shops never received any inspection reports on the Shop24 machine from the EHS office.
“We haven’t done an inspection of Shop24. It is on the list of to-do’s,” Wilkins said.
The inspection of vending machines have not been EHS’s main priority because the staff “has been concentrating on the places where food is being prepared fresh.”
Saman Sirafi, 26, is in the applied mathematics graduate program. She normally purchases cinnamon nut coffee from the vending machines. She prefers buying drinks from the machines over the Titan Shops because it is closer and cheaper.
“I prefer the weak coffee. (It) gets the job done without making me jittery,” Sirafi said.
Despite the vending machines not being inspected for over a year, it does not stop her from buying coffee from the machines. The coffee still provides what she wants for a full day of studying at school.
However, Sirafi was worried about the machines’ condition. “I’m hoping coffee residue is not toxic,” she said. “It would be nice if they cleaned them twice a year though.”