WXMI — The National Guard has renewed their contract with the Maryland-based catering company accused of sickening dozens of guard members on deployment to D.C. in the wake of the Capitol riots.
Sardi’s Catering was contracted to serve meals to troops when the mission in D.C. began on Jan. 6, the same day the riots occurred. They were chosen through a bidding process that is common when selecting government contractors. But in mid-March, roughly 50 guard members were treated for similar gastrointestinal issues. None were hospitalized and most received antacids, according to the National Guard, and many soldiers were from Michigan. New Jersey and Illinois also reported some of their soldiers getting sick as well. At the same time, images surfaced showing raw and undercooked chicken, moldy fruit, and pieces of metal in food.
According to Michigan lawmakers, the contract extension in mid-March – days after the reports of tainted food – was an agreement between the Department of Defense and the National Guard until the end of the mission, slated for May 15.
It came as a surprise to Congressman Bill Huizenga, (R) – Zeeland, who had been among the voices calling for an end to Sardi’s contract last month.
“Our office had looked into it and had been asking questions,” said Representative Huizenga. “Our first responsibility is making sure that those men and women who are out protecting the Capitol are treated well and they’re treated the way that they deserve.”
Representative Huizenga says Congress has no say in the extension of the contract but does control the National Guard’s funding. In the meantime, he’s co-sponsoring the Grub Act, legislation meant to provide a partial, retroactive per diem to guardsmen and women who served in D.C. The bill has 33 co-sponsors already.
“This is not something that is new or different than what the Guard or others do. When you travel you are given a per diem,” he said. “To me, that’s the fair thing to do; it’s the right thing to do.”
It’s something Huizenga has proposed before, and state lawmakers proposed something similar in the wake of the sicknesses. A spokesperson for the National Guard who spoke on background to FOX 17 Thursday said the Guard shied away from per diems because of issues during the summer riots in the city, where guard members’ take-out food was tampered with.
The same spokesperson added that the tainted Sardi’s meals made up about .01% of meals served to guard members during their deployment, saying Sardi’s serves roughly 78,000 meals daily. They also noted that guard members were offered alternative meals and also had their military-issued MREs during deployment as well.
But Huizenga says that is simply not enough.
“MREs were not designed to be three square meals a day nor were they designed to be your primary way of getting calories,” he said.
Sardi’s responded to our sister station, FOX 17’s request for comment, saying only:
Sardi’s Catering continues to focus on providing nutritious and safe meals for their catering clients, including the National Guard.
The Michigan National Guard did not return our request for comment by the time this story aired Thursday.