Sodexo’s Food Graded as ‘F’, But Other Factors Come into Play


Gwiwon Jason Nam

Accused of being too high in additives and fat among other things, Sodexo’s menu may be shaped by consumer demand, not health.

Todd Kleiboer, Web Editor

With society choosing to opt toward more processed foods on the grounds of taste or convenience, it may prove tough for consumers and the food industry to tow the line of health standards, and Sodexo, a leading life services company that provides its services to over 850 university and college campuses worldwide including Texas A&M University-Commerce, has recently received a healthiness grade of a ‘F’ from the health website IsItBadForYou? published in early March.

“Sodexo is not healthy,” the article read. “They are a mass produced food service company with great marketing. The food may sound healthy, but it is heavily processed and high in carbohydrates, fat, and chemicals.”

The article went on to critique Sodexo’s campaign of persuading consumers (usually children in schools) into eating healthier by rearranging foods to place the better options nearest, naming foods something more tempting, and passing out samples, stating that the food was still heavily processed.

“Unfortunately, many children complain that they are not getting enough food on their plates,” the article read. “Some of the ‘enticing names’ are simply the same old stuff in disguise. For example, if your child orders the orange chicken (or other Chinese food options), they can expect to receive some chicken nuggets from the prior day doused in orange sauce.”

About a month after its publication and thousands of shares on social media, the article garnered a response from Sodexo which restated its mission to guide consumers to healthier options in different ways that include providing the dietary information of served foods.

“University foodservice is about healthy food, but also creating an inclusive experience that builds community and student engagement,” Sodexo’s response said. “Sodexo chefs engage students in trying authentic global flavors and learning about their fellow students through their cuisine.”

Sodexo’s article also states that as an international company, it has to adapt to different tastes or diet restrictions, be they personal or cultural, that consumers might have, and it states that since the introduction of a new health-centered program, an estimated five tons of salt and 14 tons of sugar have been taken out of food.

“Sodexo strives to provide consumers with a variety of choices. In doing so, Sodexo plays a critical role in providing healthy diets for countless Americans,” the article read. “So, while it is easy to generalize whether a company like Sodexo’s food is healthy or unhealthy, savvy consumers can discern fact from fiction.”

At this university, Sodexo has seven stations in the Cafe that serve hamburgers, pizza, salad, non-allergenic foods, and more, and the dietary information is displayed on monitors above the stations with the exception of the salad bar. Other, faster options are available outside of the Cafe. Health and Human Performance Department Head Dr. Tara Tietjen-Smith has visited the Cafe before.

“It is very similar to any other place where you eat today,” she said. “You have to make healthy choices. If you just go in and eat whatever you want, that’s when you run into problems, and also portion size with any type of buffet food can be a problem with health.”

Sodexo calls the Cafe an “all you care to eat” facility in which students can control their food intake for better or for worse, and moderating the given portion sizes is key to maintaining a healthy diet and life.

“The big thing is moderation in everything. If you want to eat pizza, also eat some vegetables or salad with it,” Dr. Tietjen-Smith said. “Try to always balance things out to control the amount of calories that you eat.”

Consumer education is also critical to a health diet, and Sodexo has been proactive in this area with its display of dietary information. However, the consumers themselves may not be educated on what constitutes a healthy diet.

“[An honors student working on a thesis] found that a majority of consumers don’t know what healthy food is,” Dr. Tietjen-Smith said. “They took a quiz about their nutritional knowledge, and then she had them answer questions about the cafeteria and the foods served. They didn’t match up.”

Though Sodexo provides the food, it may not necessarily be at fault for health problems that arise from either overconsumption or side effects of food additives. Societal demands for certain foods (usually processed) have tailored the menu of Sodexo, a company that has to turn a profit at the end of its fiscal year.

“Places like Sodexo try to meet the demand of what people want,” Dr. Tietjen-Smith said. “I think people as a whole need to be more educated in order for that to change.”