University, Sodexo Respond to Nutrition Report Allegations

April 2, 2017

The Charger Bulletin, in Tuesday’s edition, reported on a study about Sodexo’s nutritional value. This report was published on a website at which gave Sodexo an ‘F’ rating for nutrition.

Since publication, officials from the university and Sodexo have expressed their concerns over the legitimacy and credibility of the website, as well as of Dr. Becky Maes, a gastroenterologist who says she left her medical practice in 2006, and who approved the report.​

President Steven H. Kaplan addressed the issue in an email sent to the student body on Thursday.

“One of my primary concerns as president of the University of New Haven is safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our nearly 7,000 students,” wrote Kaplan in the introduction to the email. “Sodexo has long been a valuable partner to us – and the more than 850 colleges and universities it partners with – and our affiliation with them is designed to enrich and sustain the overall experience of our students, faculty, and staff.”

In his email, Kaplan questioned Dr. Maes’ credentials, and her affiliation with ForeverGreen International, a company currently facing legal trouble regarding one of its products.

In Sodexo’s response, a company-wide message, also included the legal questions regarding the report’s legitimacy.

“Her credentials in the fields of nutrition and medicine have been described by others as questionable, and the company she is affiliated with, ForeverGreen International, has been widely discredited,” wrote Kaplan.

Sodexo, in their response to the report’s publication, referenced another article, citing some questionable practices by ForeverGreen International. They argued that this discredits Dr. Maes due to her affiliation with the company. They also believe the article’s shares are distorted, and they claimed that the website is over-representing the amount of times the report has been shared online.

“[Sodexo client site] proudly stands behind the quality of the products we serve and welcome any, and all, to visit, meet our culinary team, see our ingredients and observe our preparation and food handling practices,” wrote CEO Universities North America East, Jim Jenkins, and CEO Universities North America West and CEO Sodexo Canada, Barry Telford in a statement.

George Synodi, vice president for finance and administration, and Georgia Chavent, a professor from the university’s nutrition department and director of its dietetic internship program, also expressed concerns about the credibility of the article.

In an email, Chavent wrote, concerning the report’s publisher:

“It is this group that we caution our students to avoid because they make unsound statements that are not evidenced based,” wrote Chavent. “They call themselves Certified Nutritionists but they are certified by themselves, as far as we can tell.”

Synodi, in an interview, focused on the company of ForeverGreen International.

“It’s a multi-level market company that is in a lot of legal trouble,” said Synodi. “If we could separate this from the improvements, that I think everyone wants to make, on the food service program here, because I think that is legitimate. What’s harmful is that part of the article, in my belief, was written on a fake news story. You want to differentiate that from what is happening on the campus.”

As for the legal battles of Maes’ company, in 2015 ForeverGreen International was sued, in conjunction with Axcess Global, for fraud by PruvIt, a mulit-level marketing company that accused ForeverGreen of copying an exclusive product. The case was dismissed due to inability to show actionable claims, as stated in the court documents.

“Pruvit’s Amended Complaint is a thinly veiled attempt to shield its own malfeasance. Its claims do not withstand the most cursory analysis,” wrote Honorable Judge Amos L. Mazzant in his summary from the United States District Court from the Eastern District of Texas.

Kaplan and Synodi also included in their responses changes coming to the Marketplace that are in response to a survey sent out to the student body. These renovations include expanding the gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian options, enhancing the choices for “clean” eating, which includes minimally processed, non-GMO, and hormone-free food options. There will also be new dining plans, which include lunch as a meal swipe rather than dining dollars, and extending dining hours.

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