The Baptist University has backtracked on its decision to renew a contract with Maxim’s Group, after students threatened to eat worms in protest of alleged hygiene issues at a canteen managed by the caterer.

The Maxim’s dining hall was nicknamed “worm canteen” after students found insects in its food on multiple occasions. The canteen closed for three days to carry out pest control after receiving complaints last year. But insects such as cockroaches continued to be found in food and beverages, according to the university’s Students’ Union Editorial Board.

Baptist University
Baptist University. Photo: Wikicommons.

Despite the complaints, the university’s food committee passed a vote early this month allowing the caterer’s contract – due to expire in June – to be extended to 2019.

The decision drew criticism among the student body, and the Baptist University Students’ Union announced Monday that they would be eating worms in protest. The group would also deliver a petition letter to the food committee, demanding the withdrawal of the decision and better transparency of its decision-making process.

baptist university worm
Students reported they found a worm and possibly a cockroach in food within two days in December 2015. Photo: HKBU Students’ Union Editorial Board, via Facebook.

Following the Union’s announcement, the food committee passed a vote on Tuesday to reconsider the contract issues on the basis that they need more time to discuss a proposed renovation of the canteen.

Despite the school’s change of mind, the students went ahead with their protest to eat fried worms on Wednesday. The Union previously said that they would be ordering the dish from a Yunnan-style restaurant.

A member of the Union said that they wanted to show their determination through the protest. They also hoped to raise awareness so that the school community would discuss whether it was appropriate to renew the contract with the caterer.

Student representatives have also urged the school to disclose details of the renovation project and to increase transparency of its decision-making process.

baptist university worm
A student reported in May a worm in food. Photo: HKBU Students’ Union Editorial Board, via Facebook.

Maxim’s Group told Ming Pao that it is committed to maintaining food quality and hygiene of its restaurants. Its staff are also required to strictly follow guidelines and a code of conduct. It added that the accused canteen is cleaned every day, and a professional cleaning company is hired to provide full-range cleaning services on a monthly basis.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.