David Vander Straten

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hinojosa | Daily Texan Staff

Blue Bell Ice Cream and Sabra have issued recalls for many of their products because of a possible contamination with Listeria Monocytogens, a food bacterium. The Division of Housing and Food Service said it removed all possibly contaminated food items from campus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium commonly known as listeria. Common symptoms of listeriosis include fever and muscle aches, headaches, stiff necks, confusion, loss of balance and possible
intestinal problems.

University Health Services medical director David Vander Straten said students should not become worried if they recently ate any Blue Bell or Sabra products.

“Students might have listeria, but if [they] don’t have any symptoms, there’s no need to worry about it,” Straten said.

All Blue Bell products have been recalled from the main markets on campus, including Jester City Market and Cypress Café, according to DHFS food service director Rene Rodriguez.

The CDC encourages individuals to check the code date on the bottom of Blue Bell ice creams in order to find out where the ice cream was produced. If the code date ends in an S, T, O, P, Q or R, the CDC recommends placing the ice cream in a sealed plastic bag and throwing it away.

Sabra hummus products remain in markets on campus because the recall did not include any of the products in the University’s inventory.

“At no point were any of the affected hummus products stocked in Housing and Food Service outlets on campus,” Rodriguez said. “The lot numbers and package sizes affected were not a match to our purchased products.”

Undeclared freshman Quoc Le said he continued to eat Sabra products, even though he read on his Twitter feed that the products had been recalled.

“I just assumed that the Sabra packages at Jester Market [were] not part of the ones that had been recalled,” Le said.

There have been eight confirmed cases of listeriosis linked to the contamination of Blue Bell products, with five of the cases reported from Kansas and three cases from Texas. Three individuals from Kansas have died from listeriosis.

The most recent major listeria outbreak involved prepackaged caramel apples made with Bidart Bros. Apples in December 2014. The outbreak resulted in 35 reported cases across the nation and seven deaths. 

According to the CDC, the 2014 outbreak seems to be over, although people who continue to eat the recalled products may be at risk of contamination.

University Health Services appointed David Vander Straten as its new medical director. Vander Straten’s goals include improving the department’s student accessibility and removing the stigma toward seeking help with mental health.

Vander Straten, an Austin resident who previously worked as a general medicine physician at the University before becoming medical director, was appointed to the position Monday. He said he is excited to be a part of the team because he believes the staff is aware of the academic pressures students face and wants to make medical help available to them at convenient times.

“If you look at the providers, nurses, physician assistants and others, there is a wealth of experience,” Vander Straten said. “We’ve got a really strong core of providers that I think overall is really in tune with what the students’ needs are.”

UHS director Jamie Shutter said the department was looking for someone who can increase both the productivity and maximize resources in the clinic, while maintaining the quality of care.

“We don’t want to turn this place into a machine,” Shutter said. “The medical director is kind of the surgeon general of campus — when we have issues like Ebola, meningitis or hepatitis A, this person is the lead health authority on campus that helps us work through these health crises and inform the public.”

Vander Straten said one of his main goals as medical director is to help people better understand mental health diagnoses and remove their stigma.

“We know that depression and anxiety are incredibly present in our community, especially in our student population, so we need to continue to think strategically how we can best allocate our resources to address a growing number of students with these concerns,” Vander Straten said.

According to UHS, from 2013 to 2014, the department saw a total of 62,637 students and received a 97 percent satisfaction rate from their patients. In 2014, they were ranked in the top 10 of the Princeton Review Ranking for Top College Health Services in the U.S. 

According to Shutter, all decisions made by UHS aim to help students succeed academically. She said the position of medical director is a critical but tough role and believes Vander Straten is a good fit for the job.

“I am genuinely thrilled that we have David in this job,” Shutter said. “I am so optimistic about his potential … he’s just the ideal person for the role, and I am excited to have the privilege of working with him.”

Clinic volunteer Shyam Popat, Plan II honors senior and member of the Student Health Advisory Community, said he believes it’s crucial for health services to make students feel comfortable and hopes Vander Straten can provide patients with this assurance.

“UHS does a great job of having a lot of services for students, but one thing they could improve on is making the experience more personable,” Popat said. “From my interactions with [Vander Straten], he seems like the kind of person who can invoke those homey feelings into the department.”