Students learn vegetarian salad contains anchovies

District plans to replace Caesar dressing to one without fish


Courtesy of Mahiyat Bhuiyan

Caesar dressing and croutons decorate one of Cal High’s vegetarian salads. Students discovered that the Caesar salad dressing contains anchovies.

Shiphrah Moses, Managing Editor

Vegetarian senior Brunda Kashavijjala walked back to her group of friends after picking up lunch from the cafeteria. 

From the few vegetarian options available at Cal High, she chose a Caesar salad. Just as she was about to dig in, her friend stopped her and asked her a question she never thought she would have to consider: “Can you have anchovies?”

It turns out that the salad, labeled as vegetarian, contained a packet of Caesar dressing with the addition of anchovies, a type of fish. 

“That day, instead of using that Caesar dressing, I was using ketchup,” Kashavijjala said. “And it was the worst thing ever.”

The salad has been served as a vegetarian option since the beginning of the school year. Many students who are vegetarian for religious, dietary, or ethical reasons have eaten it multiple times.

“That was pretty much the only thing that I was eating,” said junior Abinaya Ramesh, who is a vegetarian. 

The Californian notified the district about the issue on March 7, but Cal’s cafeteria staff were instructed to continue serving the salad. The next day, salads were served with a label reading “contains fish”.

“This must have been an oversight on our part,” Zetta Reicker, director of child nutrition for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, wrote in an email. “I can say that due to supply chain issues and shortages, it has been extraordinarily hard to consistently receive the exact products we order.”

In the future, the vegetarian salad won’t continue to be served with the same dressing.

“[The district’s] working on getting an alternative dressing for the salad,” said Elaine Esguerra, Cal High’s lead child nutritionist.

Many vegetarian students are unhappy with this recent discovery.

“I’m frustrated,” said junior Sathvika Sitaraman, who is vegetarian. “I feel like my needs aren’t being met to the level that they should be.”

Added Kashavijjala, “I was like, what the actual heck. Why are they saying that it’s vegetarian when there’s fish in the salad dressing?”

Some vegan students knew they could not eat the salad, but not because the dressing contains anchovies. These students said they didn’t eat the salad because they assumed the dressing contained dairy.

Several students have pointed to the lack of vegetarian meal options as a part of the school’s free lunch problem. While 50 percent of meal options at the cafeteria are vegetarian, these meals tend to run out fast.

“Someone who’s vegetarian can’t necessarily eat a meal that’s not vegetarian but someone who’s not vegetarian can always eat a vegetarian meal,” Sitaraman said.