Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food
Members of Congress are calling for changes to food service operations for the National Guard troops assigned to protect the Capitol after some got sick from eating tainted meals served to them.
Michigan ABC affiliate WXYZ reported earlier this week that 74 meals for Michigan National Guard troops protecting the Capitol were thrown out Sunday after metal shavings were found, while other undercooked meals made some guardsmen sick. The National Guard confirmed to The Hill that about 50 National Guard members have been treated for gastrointestinal complaints.
The problem has also extended to National Guard troops deployed from other states to protect the Capitol following the Jan. 6 attack by a mob of former President Trump’s supporters trying to stop lawmakers from certifying the election results.
Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-N.J.) wrote in a letter to National Guard Bureau Chief General Hokanson, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday that he had recently spoken with members of the National Guard from his state who described “numerous incidents involving poorly prepared food.”
Van Drew said that some National Guardsmen have taken to buying food from local restaurants — at their own personal expense — to avoid potential food poisoning from the contracted meals provided to them.
“The most serious result of this malfeasance is the impact these failures have on the National Guard’s ability to execute its objectives. The poorly prepared food has already resulted in multiple incidents of gastrointestinal distress and impacts the Guard’s ability to perform their duties,” Van Drew wrote.
“Sometimes they must be isolated, because it cannot be determined whether their symptoms are from COVID-19 or from inedible food,” Van Drew added.
Democrats and Republicans in the Michigan congressional delegation wrote another letter to Hokanson earlier this week calling for either the current food service contract to be voided and replaced with a new provider or that National Guard members receive a per diem to buy their own food.
“It is completely unacceptable that our men and women serving in Washington D.C. are being hospitalized due to the food they are being provided,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter led by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.).
National Guard spokesperson Matt Murphy said in a statement to The Hill that the National Guard Bureau is continuing with the current food service contract and vendor, which he said has served more than 1 million meals during the Washington mission to more than 26,000 troops.
“The DC Joint Task Force continually canvasses our men and women for feedback about their food, lodging and the general conditions of their service in order to identify and address problems. When potential issues are identified, we are diligent in looking into them and taking corrective action,” Murphy said.
The undercooked and tainted meals provided to National Guardsmen aren’t the first issues to arise with their accommodations during the mission to protect the Capitol.
In late January, members of the National Guard were briefly ordered to vacate the Capitol and other congressional buildings and move into a parking garage to take their rest breaks. They were eventually relocated following outrage from lawmakers, some of whom offered their offices for troops to sleep in instead.
The Capitol Police on Thursday requested the National Guard to extend its deployment of troops at the Capitol for another two months due to ongoing security concerns. National Guard members had originally been scheduled to remain until March 12.