Friday, November 14, 2003

Was the Food Poisoned? 
Here’s the controversy du jour around here: One night in July, over 40 soldiers from the 1-124th became violently sick, all within two hours of eating dinner. Spaghetti, if you must know.

The illness was spread roughly evenly among all four companies, and was consistent in two different compounds.

Now, this is how chow operations run here: We pick up food from a civilian dining facility, put it in mermite containers, and truck it out to our different garrisons around the town. The food is generally consumed within two hours of going into the mermites—regulations allow up to four hours to elapse before the food must be discarded. There were no problems or delays with the delivery that day, so it’s unlikely that the toxin developed within the mermites. And since the rate of illness was constant at all of our separate units, it seems necessary that the food was contaminated at the dining facility, courtesy of Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton.

We had some intelligence reports, prior to the incident, that insurgents were seeking to poison food and water supplies. After the incident, Brown & Root changed its procedures so that their middle-eastern workers no longer had access to food preparation areas. The workers there now are mostly Philipino and Bosnian. The incident was not repeated.

The question: are those 40 soldiers entitled to wear the Purple Heart? The regulations say no, the Purple Heart is not awarded in cases of food poisoning, unless the poisoning came about as a result of enemy action.

So should the victims of The Spaghetti Incident receive the Purple Heart?

I report; “They” will decide.

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