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Pentagon: No plan to change food vendor contracts for National Guard at Capitol

The Pentagon on Monday said that no moves are being made to remove any company from food service operations after National Guard troops assigned to protect the U.S. Capitol got sick from eating tainted meals served to them last week.

About 50 National Guard troops have been treated for gastrointestinal complaints — six as outpatients at military treatment facilities and the others at an aid station set up at the Capitol, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

But after food vendor facilities were inspected multiple times, “with no substantial issues having been recorded,” Kirby said he is not aware of any changing contracts due to the illnesses.

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National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson and leaders “are taking very seriously the need to make sure that the troops have safe and nutritious food,” Kirby said. “There’s routine inspections, [Hokanson] himself goes down there multiple times a week to eat with the National Guardsmen, to eat what they’re eating. They’re constantly looking at the food quality and making sure that it’s up to par.”

Members of Congress last week called for changes to food service operations for guardsmen at the Capitol after it was discovered that 74 meals for Michigan National Guard troops were thrown out earlier this month after metal shavings were found. Other undercooked meals made some guardsmen sick

Democrats and Republicans in the Michigan congressional delegation wrote a letter to Hokanson last week calling for either the current food service contract to be voided and replaced with a new provider or that guardsmen receive a per diem to buy their own food. 

Kirby, however, said National Guard leaders are closely monitoring the situation and “working with the contractors to address concerns.”

He added that Defense officials also visit the contractors’ place of business to do spot checks on meals for cooking temperature and overall quality.

The food issues arise as the Capitol Police have requested the National Guard to extend its deployment of troops at the Capitol for another two months due to ongoing security concerns. As many as 26,000 service members were deployed following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, with 5,100 originally scheduled to remain until March 12.