June 19, 2024

Food Poisoning Outbreak at Jail Prompts Lawsuit

Five former inmates of the Kent County Jail in Grand Rapids, Michigan have filed a lawsuit alleging that food poisoning they endured from contaminated or spoiled food was “cruel and unusual punishment.” The lawsuit, filed in 17th Circuit Court in Kent County, names Kent County, Sheriff Lawrence Stelma, and food service company Aramark Corp. as defendants.

GavelsAt least 200 inmates became sick after eating a chicken taco meal in 2012, according to the suit. Lab tests revealed the meal was contaminated with Clostridium perfringens, a spore-producing bacteria, in a rice and cheese product.

Symptoms of food poisoning from Clostridium perfringens included diarrhea and abdominal cramping. The complaint argues that Aramark Corp. did not take appropriate food safety measures that would have prevented illness.

This is not the first time Aramark has come under fire for its prison food. In a food poisoning outbreak at Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, MI who, inmates were served food crawling with maggots twice in one week.  The outbreak  sickened 150 people. A letter writer to Food Poisoning Bulletin who has a loved one at Parnall said the facility often serves the inmates rotten food and runs out of food at mealtimes.

Food poisoning outbreaks at jails are not uncommon. Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2013, a Salmonella outbreak linked to Tyson mechanically separated chicken sickened nine inmates at the Bradley County Jail in Tennessee.

Mechanically separated chicken is produced by forcing chicken bones and attached edible tissue through a sieve to separate meat from bone. It has a looser consistency than ground chicken, more like a paste or batter. The product is normally used as an ingredient in hot dogs, bologna, luncheon meats, but was sold as is to Bradley County Jail and other institutions.


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