JACKSON (CBS DETROIT/AP) – The beleaguered state contractor for prison and school foods program, Aramark Correctional Services, is coming under scrutiny again in Michigan.
Corrections official Chris Gautz confirmed that maggots were spotted in potatoes that were being cut up in the kitchen as lunch service was in full swing at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson.
“Our Warden was in the kitchen shortly thereafter and he ordered all of the potato products in the kitchen to be thrown away,” said Gautz. “All food utensils that could have possibly come in contact with the food prep area to be sanitized and then the kitchen to be cleaned from top to bottom.”
Gautz says that there were no reports by inmates of maggots on their plates but he can’t say yet for certain that no maggots made it to the lunch table.
“There were some potatoes that were served to inmates but there were no reports of any issues — no inmates saw anything on their trays – no inmates reported any illness or complaints about their food,” he said.
Aramark’s Vice President Karen Cutler says it’s investigating the incident with its staff, the potato supplier and Corrections Department.
Aramark was hit with major fines after 30 inmates were sickened by maggot laced food.
The Governor’s office has not returned calls for comment.
The state of Michigan, under the guidance of Governor Rick Snyder, privatized the food service in Michigan prisons two years ago, and since that time a series of scandals, has left Aramark’s performance scrutinized due to allegations of employee misconduct and food contamination. The company has said it’s working to correct any issues.
At least three dozen Aramark employees have been banned from prisons for violations since the company took over. Just last week, an ex-food service worker was accused of trying to orchestrate the assault of an inmate. Other issues related to the state’s contract with Aramark have included drug smuggling and sexual relations with inmates by Aramark employees.
Democrats and a liberal advocacy group have called on 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.
Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “The time for a full investigation of Aramark is long past due. If Gov. Snyder, Attorney General Schuette and the Department of Corrections are not going to hold Aramark accountable, then the Michigan Legislature must launch an investigation,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan a grassroots political watchdog group.
The latest incident comes just as Aramark is asking the state to review its contract, which is the likely first step in asking the state to pay them more for their services.
In 2014, The Detroit Free Press reported that a fired Aramark prison food worker filed a whistle-blower complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging she lost her job for complaining about falsified records and kitchen practices that endangered health and food safety.
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