LANSING – State Representatives John Kivela (D-Marquette) and Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) recently introduced legislation to require that prison kitchen facilities have food safety inspections performed when a contractor is managing the kitchen facility to prepare or serve meals. The State of Michigan entered into a three-year $145 million contract with Aramark turning over the operation of Michigan’s prison food service operations, including the kitchen facilities, to Aramark in December 2013.
“Just in the past few weeks there was yet another allegation of maggots in food served by Aramark in one of our prisons, so clearly fining the company and the bad press they’ve received over previous incidents hasn’t helped get them to run a good food service operation or clean kitchens,” said Kivela. “Other privately and publically run food service operations in Michigan have to submit to food safety inspections. “There is no doubt that the highly publicized problems in these kitchens need to be addressed and monitored at a higher level”
Currently, under the Michigan Food Law, state prison kitchen facilities are exempt from being classified as a “food establishment.” Due to this exemption, these kitchen facilities are not subject to routine food safety inspections which are mandated for other food service establishments across the state. Prison kitchens had this exemption because when they were run by state employees, and those employees were constantly monitoring and inspecting the kitchen areas to maintain both food quality and safety.
The bills introduced by Kivela and McBroom would require that prison kitchens be inspected 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. If the state resumes food preparation and food service within the prison system then kitchen facilities would once again be exempt from food safety inspections.
“Our prisons should face the same scrutiny as our schools, universities and senior centers,” said McBroom. “It seems only reasonable that those kitchens face the same strict inspections as required by any kitchen serving the public.”
Aramark has been fined for a number of issues including the cleanliness of the kitchens. There have been 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 have also been issues with the quantity of food served and substitutions when Aramark has run out of food.
“If keeping guards, employees and visitors safe means Aramark 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. “Aramark needs to live up to their contract, and inspections that they will have to pay for is one way to make this work for taxpayers, guards, prison employees and prisoners. This is common sense legislation and we look forward to seeing it signed into law.”