Sodexo: scandals and ethical dilemmas

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By: Stephanie Vargas, News Editor

Imagine going to Sub Connection and being served horse meat instead of baja chicken on your sub. Imagine E. Coli soup at Souper Salad and Listeria in your buffalo chicken wrap at Tommy’s. Now, what if I told you this was actually the case in some places serviced by Sodexo?

Founded by billionaire Pierre Bellon, Sodexo has a long history of scandal and controversy. Sodexo has been associated with outsourcing, questionable food quality and a questionable ethical history. In recent years, it was discovered that Sodexo had been outsourcing in order to become more profitable, using foreign entities to obtain goods for a cheaper price rather than supporting local businesses and economies. And in a town such as Bloomington that’s saturated with local farms, there are many other sources that could provide higher-quality food to students.

In the case of Sodexo, outsourcing also compromises quality and freshness. According to the Huffington Post, outsourcing “iced out small local farmers and other quality food suppliers in favor of big agriculture and big business that could best engage in the kickback scheme.” Sodexo has been known to go with foreign producers to get their food because they give better cash rebates. Sodexo profits have been steadily rising over the last three years, but at a cost.

The quality of the food is precisely the reason Sodexo lost numerous accounts in 2013. According to an article by the Huffington Post, “The company found horse DNA in some of its products and withdrew all frozen beef products from its catering operations at 2,300 British schools, care facilities, military bases, prisons, office canteens and sporting venues.” This was in Britain, but in 2007 Sodexo was involved in a scandal in which 3,000 pounds of chicken were recalled due to Listeria contamination. The contaminated chicken was served to U.S. troops in the Marine Corps dining halls across the United States. As if horsemeat and Listeria weren’t bad enough, Sodexo has also been tied to various E. Coli outbreaks in Germany, Wisconsin and California.

Sodexo also has a record of being ethically ambiguous. They are known to profit off of large prison companies. According to an article by Medium, “Up until 2001, Sodexo owned a large stake in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the notorious prison operator that now controls nearly half of the United States’ private prisons.”
An article by Politico claims that profits also come at the expense of many Sodexo employees, who work full-time and still qualify for government assistance programs. In 2010, Ohio State University students and staff protested Sodexo and their unfair labor practices.

Sodexo has been known to discourage unionization. The Corporate Research Project detailed a report in which Sodexo was implicated with anti-union activities, which included “captive meetings and the firing of union supporters at several of Sodexo’s U.S. facilities.”

If all of this were not discouraging enough, according to The Corporate Research Project, “In 2005 Sodexo had to pay $80 million to settle a lawsuit claiming that it systematically denied promotions to some 3,400 African-American managers.”
The bottom line is that Sodexo has a bad reputation due to its involvement in many scandals and ethical dilemmas. For $3,952 a semester, there is no need to compromise quality and character in choosing a food supplier that puts profits first and the well-being of students and its consumers last.