Prison Food Is Making U.S. Inmates Disproportionately Sick
Lapses in food safety have made U.S. prisoners six times more likely to get a foodborne illness than the general population.
About 30 prisoners at a Michigan correctional facility are being treated for symptoms consistent with food poisoning after maggots and fly larvae were discovered in one of the meal serving lines, an official confirmed Monday.
But a spokeswoman for Aramark Correctional Services, Michigan’s prison food contractor, said there is no evidence linking the discovery of the maggots to the outbreak of illness.
The maggots were discovered Friday in a crack along one of the meal serving lines at Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson. They were seen “a couple inches from where the food trays are located,” Corrections Department spokesman Russ Marlan told the Detroit Free Press.
“We don’t believe the maggots got into the food, but finding them that close to where food trays sit during serving periods is a serious and significant sanitary issue,” he said.
It’s the latest food-related problem since the state turned over its food service to a private contractor, Aramark Correctional Services of Philadelphia, in December.
“I can never recall this type of thing happening” in the past, Marlan said.
On Saturday, several prisoners reported to health care with symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, headaches and fatigue, and about 30 inmates are currently being treated, Marlan said.
“We don’t believe they are faking,” he said.
Karen Cutler, a spokeswoman for Aramark, said the maggots were discovered before food was served on Friday and “there are no facts that show food played any role in the illnesses reported over the weekend, or is connected in any way to today’s pest issue.”
Aramark “immediately notified the DOC maintenance department which will make all necessary repairs to the serving line,” she said.
The Aramark contract eliminated 370 state jobs at an estimated annual savings of $12 million to $16 million.
On June 6, the Corrections Department put Aramark on notice that starting Tuesday it will begin strict enforcement of the terms of its three-year, $145-million contract in terms of meal counts and unauthorized substitutions for required menu items. This follows continued problems after the department levied $98,000 in fines against Aramark in March for various contract infractions.
Dozens of Aramark workers have been fired and banned from the prisons for offenses such as being too familiar with prisoners and/or trying to smuggle marijuana or other contraband into prisons.
On the serving line, “there is supposed to be a bead of caulking to seal the crack, however the caulking was gone; which allowed the fly larva and maggots to grow in the crack,” Marlan said.
“Our maintenance staff dismantled this serving line equipment, thoroughly cleaned it and will make necessary repairs,” he said.
The serving line remains out of service, but prisoners are being served from a second serving line that was properly maintained and does not have the same issues, he said …..
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