LANSING — State Representative John Kivela (D-Marquette) said today that he’s pleased that his bill concerning prison kitchens, House Bill 4748, was voted out of the House Committee on Oversight and Ethics this week. The bill would require that prison kitchen facilities have food safety inspections performed when a private contractor is managing the kitchen facility to prepare or serve meals.

“Other privately and publically run food service operations in Michigan have to submit to food safety inspections,” said Kivela. “It only makes sense to require that of private contractors who are running our prison kitchens. This will also ensure that taxpayers know that their tax dollars are funding good work by the contractors we hire if we hold them accountable through inspections.”

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a three-year, $145 million contract turning over the operation of Michigan’s prison food service operations, including the kitchen facilities, to Aramark in December 2013. That contract was terminated in July 2015 after numerous, continuous incidents of food shortages, unclean kitchens, spoiled food and maggots in the kitchen and serving area and in the food, as well as other problems with Aramark employees that put prison security and the public at risk. Gov. Snyder then signed a contract with Trinity Services Group to run prison kitchens.

Kivela’s bill would require that prison kitchens be inspected by the local county health department. The cost of the inspections would be the responsibility of the contractor providing food preparation and food service at each facility.

Aramark was fined for a number of issues, including the cleanliness of the kitchens. There were several instances of maggots in food, and at one prison it was said that cake was served after part of it was trimmed off because it had been eaten by rodents. There were also issues with the quantity of food served and substitutions when Aramark ran out of food.

“If keeping guards, employees and visitors safe means that a contractor has to pay for food safety inspections so we know the kitchens are clean and the food is safe, then that’s what they need to do,” said Kivela. “This is common-sense legislation, and I hope to see it move quickly through the Senate.”