ST. LOUIS, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – A kitchen worker for the state’s food contractor ordered cake that appeared to have been nibbled or pawed by rodents to be served to inmates last year at a mid-Michigan prison, the Michigan Department of Corrections said.
The July incident resulted in the dismissal of an Aramark Correctional Services worker, department spokesman Chris Gautz told The Detroit News. He said the warden at the Central Michigan Correctional Facility near St. Louis immediately had the kitchen and eating area cleaned.
“We took this very seriously,” Gautz told the Detroit Free Press. “We wanted to make sure nothing like this will ever happen again.”
According to the newspaper, which obtained a copy of the incident report, an Aramark worker told an inmate food worker to stop throwing away cake that appeared to have been nibbled or pawed by rodents. The Aramark worker then instructed the inmate to cut off the nibbled or pawed outer portion of the cake and serve the rest. Gautz said he’s not aware of any illnesses that resulted from inmates eating the cake.
The incident was among violations for which Philadelphia-based Aramark last year ended up paying a $200,000 penalty, Gautz said. Details were released Monday in emails obtained by liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan under the Freedom of Information Act.
Karen Cutler, an Aramark spokeswoman, said she was “not going to comment on an allegation from eight months ago that is one of hundreds of allegations made by special-interest groups against our company and our hardworking employees in Michigan.”
Cutler said “food safety is a top priority that we take very seriously,” and “our processes and procedures are industry leading, and if issues are raised, we fix them quickly.”
Aramark, which has a three-year, $145 million prison food contract with the Michigan prison system, says it’s working to fix any issues. The company’s performance has been under scrutiny over misconduct by some of its employees and food contamination issues.
At least three dozen Aramark employees have been banned from prisons for violations. Michigan fined the company $200,000 last August and put an independent monitor in place. The company has promised improvements.
Democrats and a liberal advocacy group have called on Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, to cancel the Aramark deal, saying problems were inevitable because of high turnover and lower pay for private workers who replaced roughly 370 state employees who lost their jobs in the outsourcing.
The governor has defended the decision to stick with the food vendor, saying the state was on pace to save $14 million a year through privatization. He also absolved Aramark of responsibility for suspected food poisoning and maggot problems.
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