April 11, 2024

Essex County NJ Detention Facility Serving Unsafe Food

The Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security has found that New Jersey’s Essex County Correctional Facility has “unsanitary and unsafe conditions.” This place holds 800 immigrants. The IG has released a report on conditions at that facility.

Essex County Detention Center ICE Food Poisoning

Inspectors found “foul smelling and unrecognizable” hamburger patties, blood from raw chicken leaking in the refrigerator, and moldy bread set aside to make bread pudding in the kitchen. Lunch meat was “slimy and foul-smelling,” and appeared to be spoiled. Detainees said they have been suffering from food poisoning and stomach infections.

Those problems can cause food poisoning from Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Cross-contamination from raw chicken juices onto foods eaten uncooked can cause foodborne illness. And mold on bread can make people sick and cause respiratory problems. Any meat that smells foul should not be consumed.

The facility was inspected in July 2018. Media reports had prompted the inspection, which validated those concerns about raw, spoiled, or expired meat. Inspectors observed facility staff serving this meat to detainees. In addition, kitchen staff put all unused bread into large trash bags and trash cans to be used for making bread pudding once every few weeks.

ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, must ensure that the facility “complies with detention standards to establish an environment that protects the safety, rights, and health of detainees.” The report also says that “mitigation and resolution of these issues require ICE’s immediate attention and increased engagement with the facility and its operations.” ICE must comply with their 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards.

ICE “concurred with the report recommendation and described corrective actions to address the issues identified’ in the report. ┬áThe report stated that “the Essex Facility has risked the spread of foodborne illness by knowingly serving detainees potentially contaminated meat and bread.”

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2012 stated that “food production in correctional facilities should meet minimum safety standards, including sufficient refrigeration facilities, training of food handlers, and exemption of ill food handlers from work.”

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