“Filthy” kitchen facilities, inadequate hand-washing practices, and bugs in light fixtures were repeatedly noted in food-safety inspections of Kansas prisons conducted between January 2013 and July 2014, according to recent news reports. The monthly and sometimes less-frequent inspections were conducted by the Kansas Department of Corrections, with some of its employees reportedly working in the same facilities they inspected. Nineteen facilities were inspected, including seven of the state’s 10 prisons and satellite units, and 338 inspections were done. Some of them showed the same problems for months in a row. At a juvenile correctional facility in Topeka, KS, inspections revealed that proper temperature logs were not taken, hand-washing and glove use practices were not enforced, employees did not properly cover their hair, and food-safety training was not current. “Gloves worn to handle bread and meat patties used to touch face and pick item up off floor and touch door handles,” stated an April 2014 inspection report. The food-service contractor for most KS prisons is Aramark, a Philadelphia, PA-based provider of food, beverages and other services to convention centers, school districts and institutions such as prisons.

Jeremy Barclay, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections, told a state media outlet that hygiene issues are always a problem in prisons, and that people are being housed for whom “cleaning hasn’t always been a priority in their life.”

He added that, while the department can fine contractors or even cancel contracts, Aramark “has demonstrated it will take whatever administrative steps required to ensure that isn’t necessary.” Barclay also noted that prisons mainly deal with processed foods, so having problems related to insufficient cooking isn’t common. “The food is so processed, there’s not really a food safety risk,” he said.