Washington – At least 50 National Guard members have become ill with digestive problems after complaints that service members were being treated to bad food while guarding the US Capitol in Washington, officials said.
Michigan lawmakers asked the military to fire the contractor involved – identified in federal records as Sardi’s Catering in College Park, Maryland.
Sardi was awarded a $ 11.4 million contract by the District National Guard of Columbia on Jan.25 to provide food to troops activated to assist with security after the Jan.6 Capitol attack. Calls to Sardi’s and the business owner on Wednesday were not immediately returned.
A guard spokesman said Wednesday that none of those sick had been hospitalized with illness from food since the Capitol’s security mission began Jan. 6; however, some have been hospitalized.
“Of the 26,000 deployed and 5,200 remaining, about 50 have been treated for gastrointestinal complaints,” said Lt. Col. Robert Carver, spokesman for the Joint Task Force leading the Capitol’s security mission.
Six of the service members were treated as outpatients at a military care facility, and the others were treated at an aid station set up as part of the task force, Carver said.
The figure of 50 sick is a change from Tuesday, when Carver said the Joint National Guard Task Force was not aware of any reports of foodborne illness. Carver said Wednesday morning that he had received the latest data.
“The National Guard continues to monitor the quality and safety of food provided to its personnel,” he said.
The Michigan National Guard has nearly 1,000 troops serving in Washington as part of a joint task force providing Capitol security. Their mission will end March 12.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who has asked military officials to fix food quality problems, plans to travel to Washington to visit Friday with Michigan troops, a spokesman said.
“The governor has made it clear that he expects the US Army to provide adequate hotel accommodation and benefits to ensure adequate and available food,” said spokeswoman Whitmer Tiffany Brown.
Whitmer called Acting Secretary of the Army John E. Whitley about food quality issues two weeks ago on February 17, following the first reports of poor food.
A Michigan guard representative told congressional staff during a briefing Tuesday that 59 members of the guard from various states had reported digestive ailments, including some who had sought hospital treatment for a diagnosis.
Michigan guard members have complaining since mid-February about some of the food they have served while providing safety in the US Capitol, from undercooked meat to poor quality food to a lack of vegetarian options.
Some service members, who often stand outside during shifts of up to 12 hours, have spent their own money on food because they do not trust food from contractors, lawmakers said this week.
Records indicate that Sardi’s Catering will provide a continental breakfast and two hot meals (lunch and dinner) for the squad until March 15, under the terms of the contract. Sardi was previously awarded a similar meal contract on January 9 worth nearly $ 1.39 million.
Sardi was chosen from twoother vendors (Mission BBQ and Office Catering) because the proposed prices are about 16% less for lunch and dinner and about 27% less for breakfast, according to contract notes.
One complaint from the Michigan army was that their breakfast consisted of a piece of fruit and a hard, protein-free roll. Boiled eggs were added last week, officials said.
All 14 members of the Michigan House delegation signed a letter Tuesday for General Daniel R. Hokanson, head of the National Guard. They want him to fire a food service contractor and find another vendor, or have service members paid per diem for food for the remainder of their time in Washington.
“Michigan National Guard members stationed in our nation’s capital have repeatedly and personally raised this concern directly to our offices and to the National Guard leadership. This report includes food provided that was undercooked, raw, moldy, and even filled with metal. shavings, “wrote the member of parliament, led by Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Holland.
“It is completely unacceptable that our men and women serving in Washington, DC, are hospitalized because of the food they provide.”
Democratic Senator Gary Peters, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, made a similar request for daily allowances for service members in a Monday letter to Hokanson.
The Michigan Senate adopted a resolution Wednesday calling for the National Guard to “immediately” end food contracts and provide a per diem food allowance from the start of the mobilization. The resolution was co-sponsored by 33 of 36 Michigan senators.
“I have heard from many fellow guards deployed, and each one of them has reaffirmed the poor and unsafe quality of what they have been feeding,” said Senator Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, who sponsored the action.
“Our dedicated servicemen and women are stationed in the capital of the world’s largest country, to protect officials at the highest levels of government, but that government has failed to provide our troops with the most basic necessities of healthy food.”
National Guard officials said this week they were working with contractors to fix the problem but said the problem was limited to a small number of incidents with undercooked catering food.
The caretaker has not pointed out the problem to a specific food source, so cannot say whether the problem was the fault of one of the caterers or an outside food source.
Carver said officials visited catering businesses, inspected food, checked cooking temperatures and checked the safety and cleanliness of kitchens.
Less than 0.01% of the 1.2 million meals provided from January 6 to February 18 appeared undercooked, he said.
The peak of the guard’s attendance on the Capitol was around President Joe Biden’s inauguration when he distributed 78,000 meals a day. Today, that number is closer to 18,000 meals a day. The guard official said contracted food service was the most efficient way to feed large numbers of people.
“Nothing goes without a nutritious food source,” says Carver. “This is still a priority because the military has to be able to make sure that its members can carry out the mission and part of that is making sure they have nutritious food that gives them the fuel they need to really do their job. “
Staff writer Craig Mauger contributed.
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]