German students banned from eating canteen leftovers

A close-up of food being served in a canteen Image copyright THOMAS LOHNES/AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Students who eat the leftovers say they're helping to cut down on food waste

Students at a university in southern Germany will no longer be allowed to eat each other's leftovers in the canteen because of health and safety concerns.

Until now, those dining at the University of Freiburg could polish off anything they spotted on the conveyor belt of returned trays. But the student welfare service says it is putting a stop to the practice - which is known as "conveyor-belting" - over fears it's not safe, the SWR public broadcaster reports.

Deputy manager Renate Heyberger says they initially tolerated students gobbling up half-finished meals, but now that the idea has caught on they felt they had to act. "The leftovers are a hygiene risk. If something happens, the manager would be responsible," she says. A cover will be added to the belt to prevent people from picking at the leftovers.

About 40 students regularly partake in conveyor-belting and they're not happy about the new prohibition. Student Jonathan Frey tells SWR that none of them would complain if they ended up getting ill from the food. He suggests that an agreement could be drawn up with the student association for those who want to continue eating leftovers.

Hygiene expert Dr Ernst Tabori says that he sees little risk, provided the students have healthy immune systems and use clean cutlery. It does depend on the food, though. Taking chips from the conveyor belt would be no different to sharing them with friends, he says, but finishing off someone else's bowl of soup could risk passing on germs.

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