Foreign militaries have recognized you don’t need trans fat for shelf-life:

The D’Andrea Brothers are crusading to REMOVE TRANS FAT FROM ARMY FOOD and create enhanced, healthier performance nutrition for our troops.  Because the troops deserve better. 

And yet, the guys at fault aren’t punished... they’re promoted.

Stephen Moody was one of the lead Natick defendants.  He has bad-mouthed elite Special Operations leaders for “lack of discipline” when they seek healthier non-trans-fat bars for Special Operations teams (instead of using Natick’s official trans-fat products), and he’s argued for the use of trans fat.  When Moody and Natick Combat Feeding were found guilty of material breach, instead of being punished by the Natick Soldier Center, Moody was promoted to Director of Combat Feeding and now receives a $151,000 salary.

In fighting this battle, we’ve unearthed influence peddling, dirty business dealings, and disturbing behaviors in military food contracting.  One of the more shameless documents we discovered was this email where Army lawyer Scott Chafin, who was trying to squelch us, tells a private business friend that he hopes to “make you some bucks.”  We pointed it out (along with other suspect dealings) to the Army Legal Services Agency standards and ethics officials, but they opted to ignore the issue and not reprimand Chafin.

GOOD NEWS: Because we won a major lawsuit against the Natick Soldier Center Combat Feeding Program and also applied grassroots pressure with things like this website, Natick finally caved in 2014 and removed trans fat from the notorious First Strike energy bar that they feed to troops.  (The trans-fat First Strike bar is the main energy bar in rations, and for years we’d been lobbying Natick to stop pumping millions of them into the troops.)  We estimate that by forcing the removal of trans fat from First Strike bars, we’ve saved troops from having to ingest 16 metric tons of trans fat per year.

BAD NEWS: they replaced the trans fat with something almost as bad... palm kernel oil.  First Strike bars are now laden with unhealthy palm kernel oil.  As Dr. Weil puts it, “unlike palm oil, palm kernel oil can't be obtained organically. Instead, the oil must be extracted from the pit with a gasoline-like hydrocarbon solvent. In short, palm kernel oil is a cheap, unhealthy fat, and I recommend avoiding food products containing it.”

U.S. Special Operations Forces get it (because they’re not under the thumb of Natick)

The Old Boys’ Network seems to control troop feeding. 

There are many healthy products out there that the Army could source, if it wanted the best for Soldier health.  But the military feeding bureaucracy claims that unusual shelf-life requirements prevent them from using the healthy stuff.  But that’s a myth.  There are many healthy options with 3-year shelf-life, such as the bar we make, a bar that’s been adopted by elite units worldwide... but suppressed by Natick and thus never put in American MREs, which is what they were designed for.

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The men and women in uniform (i.e. the people who actually fight for this country) are the ones being short-changed by these civilian bureaucrats working in the military.  So while the bureaucrats in civilian clothes resist and try to undermine us, we of course care very little.  The opinions of the men and women in uniform are the ones that matter to us.

Brandeis said “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”  We agree.  And in that spirit, we’ve used the Freedom of Information Act to make numerous formal requests for certain miitary feeding bureaucracy documents, records, and emails, in order to uncover what’s been going on behind the scenes.  But invariably, the military feeding bureaucracy (and their lawyers, like John Stone) respond with gobs of relevant pages where every word and detail is blacked-out, despite the fact that these are public records.  Not exactly shining examples of transparency.  Click here, or on the image at right, to see some of the hundreds of docs that Natick Combat Feeding covered up.  Equally troubling:

  1. 1.the government lawyers (especially DOJ’s Sheryl Floyd) frequently responded to our FOIA requests by claiming that the materials relevant to our case couldn’t be produced due to the fact that the computer of the government employee in question had allegedly and mysteriously crashed, unfortunately destroying all files just days after our request. 

  2. 2.Stephen Moody and Gerald Darsch frequently demanded that they review colleagues’ FOIA document production -- i.e. screen the emails before they were released -- which is probably illegal.

Government lawyers cover up the military feeding bureaucracy’s behind-the-scenes dealings with their

Despite the health risks

of trans fat, the Army

Combat Feeding

agencies feed the

troops hundreds of

thousands of trans fat

food items in their MREs.

  1. The Mayo Clinic condemns trans fat as “the worst” of all the fats, because its effect on cholesterol levels “significantly increases your risk of heart disease, the leading killer of men and women.

  2. The American Heart Association warns that “eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.”

  3. “Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health estimate that trans fat causes 72,000 to 228,000 heart attacks, including 50,000 fatal ones, per year” (Center for Science in the Public Interest).

  4. Professor Walter Willet at Harvard School of Public Health says eating trans fat “is like throwing sand into your finely-regulated metabolic machinery.”

We think it’s a travesty that the government is pumping unhealthy trans fat -- literally tons of it -- into the arteries of our troops.  When a Soldier opens an MRE downrange, he has no choice in the matter; he or she eats what the military feeding bureaucracy feeds them. 

It’s 2015.  Oreos® and Cheetos® had their trans fat removed years ago.  But military food still has it.  Who’s responsible?  The bureaucrats at Army Natick Combat Feeding, ACES, and DLA.  They dictate the military food menus, which include lots of hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fat.  

DLA Troop Support buys $14.5 billion of food and supplies for the troops every year... and yet they can’t supply a healthy trans-fat-free menu to the men and women who risk their lives for their country. 

The men and women who fight for us deserve better.  So on their behalf, and because many of them asked us to, we decided to fight to make Army food healthier by removing dangerous trans fats from all military food. 

We’ve been campaigning against trans fat in military food for years, warning the military feeding bureaucracy about the dangers of trans fat since 2004, and battling intransigent civilian bureaucrats at Natick and DLA.  Finally, in recent months, they’ve caved to the pressure a bit and begun removing trans fat from one or two key food items.  But they’ve left it in many more.  So we keep fighting.

And it all raises a pretty obvious question: why would the government still be pumping trans fat into the troops? 

Well, for years, Natick has made specious claims about the necessity of trans fat for shelf-life.  These claims are of course absurd and untrue, and we’ve even uncovered internal Natick documents revealing that they know their claims are bogus, and that their own trans fat food products had failed their internal shelf-life tests (apparently leading them to do some rather two-faced bad-mouthing of the contractors they’d hired to make their products).  And not only did Natick’s own trans-fat products fail shelf-life tests, but these same Natick food items also gained notoriety inside and outside the military for less-than-stellar quality (in one case, a Soldier who was asked to evaluate Natick food simply declared that “there was a flatulence symphony in my tent all night.”)  Revealing a somehwat glaring insensititivity, the head of the Natick Combat Feeding Directorate was often quoted as saying his Natick-designed MRE rations were referred to internally as “Meals Rejected by Ethiopians.” 

The poor quality of rations is shameful, especially given that Natick Soldier Center has a $1 billion budget.  Perhaps it’s a question of strategic focus, or the lack thereof: when an organization thinks it’s more important to spend funds sourcing the right beer can coozy souvenirs as novelty items, rather than remove trans fat in Soldier food, you know there’s a problem with priorities.

But when faced with the fact that their data didn’t support their claims, Natick and the military feeding bureaucracy simply moved to cover up that fact, so they could keep mandating that trans fat food items be fed to the troops.

And that leads inevitably to the next question: what’s really going on here?

Dig a little deeper, and you realize at least one or two things that are rather unsettling.  When the military feeding bureaucracy alleges and insists on the necessity of trans fat for shelf-life purposes, what it’s really doing is protecting the flow of multi-million-dollar contracts to the food companies that have long been providing trans fat energy bars and other trans fat food products to the Army.  And here’s the big problem with that: a lot of mlitary feeding bureaucrats leave their government posts and immediately go to work for those same food companies.  It smacks of a classic revolving door scenario.

So is there a problem?  Yeah, a big one.  And we’re doing more than just pointing it out.  We’re actually fighting to fix it.  

Example: some of the Natick Soldier Center’s worst trans-fat offenders are its notorious First Strike and Ranger energy bars.  Since 2007, and despite our warnings, Natick and DLA has been ordering millions of these unhealthy trans fat bars from Old Boys Network companies, and pumping those bars into the troops in rations.  For seven years, each chocolate First Strike bar has been 8.3% partially hydrogenated oil,which is the source of trans fat.  During one of those years, the amount of First Strike bars contracted from a single vendor amounted to 16 metric tons of trans fat fed to the troops.

But we kept fighting for change.  And then in September 2014, Natick Combat Feeding finally gave in to our pressure and changed the recipe for First Strike bars.

Beyond just advocacy, we’ve also gone one step further.  Because the Army refused to create a zero-trans-fat energy bar specifically for the troops, we created one ourselves

  1. Our energy bar has won warfighter field tests conducted by the Army. 

  2. It has the required three year shelf life that military bars need.  And it’s all-natural.  (For years, the military feeding bureaucracy has misleadingly claimed that trans fat was needed for shelf-life... but in truth, records indicate that Natick’s trans fat bars do not even meet their own shelf-life requirements). So when bureaucrats like Natick’s Stephen Moody and Old Boys Network contractors say superior shelf-life food can’t be trans-fat free, we know they’re not telling the truth.

  3. The NY Daily News said our Soldier Fuel bar “tastes like a gourmet dessert chef’s take on granola bars.” 

  4. The Army has confirmed Soldier Fuel meets the standards for MRE inclusion.

  5. Soldier Fuel has been adopted by special military units in Canada and Israel, and the US Special Operations Forces Nutrition Guide recommends it.

  6. Soldier Fuel is less expensive than the trans-fat First Strike bar.

And yet, years later, it’s never been put in a single MRE, or any other military ration.  Instead, the military feeding bureaucracy continues to feed troops rations with trans-fat energy bars (and other trans-fat products) made by the same good-old-boy food contractors.

We’ve worked closely with military nutritionists in the Navy, Air Force, CHAMP, and Army elements such as USARIEM.  Most of them are great.  And the top military nutritionists -- the people in uniform, not the bureaucrats -- agree that trans fat in Army food is a travesty.  They want to help make the change.  But they don’t control the troop rations menu and they don’t dole out the multi-million-dollar food contracts with external companies.  That’s done by civilian bureaucrats at Natick Combat Feeding and DLA.  And many of them are protecting the Old Boys Network companies that make money making the trans fat food, we’ve been told. 

Are there good bureaucrats working in military supply?  Of course.  We’ve worked with some of them, and we admire them.  But, as we all know, there are also bad apples in military supply.  We all remember the Walter Reed scandal (where wounded vets were made to live among rodents and mold in their hospital rooms), and the occasions where troops were sent into battle with inadequate body armor etc.  The troops got shortchanged by the civilian bureaucrats responsible for supplying and protecting them. 

And the same thing is happening with troop food.  We think the government’s priority should be the health of the men and women in uniform, not the benefit of the Old Boys Network and not the status quo.  Many of the uniformed military nutritionists we’ve worked with want to help, but they’ve been stymied internally by the civilians in the DoD.  Still, they’ve encouraged us to carry on our fight, and so have all of our friends who actually serve in uniform.  Why?  Because pressure from the outside is the only way this problem can be fixed.  As one Soldier told us, “this is one battle that we can’t fight... you have to, for us.”

Our priority is the men and women in uniform.  Our mission is to get rid of trans fat in their food.  So we’ll take it one battle at a time.  We’ve had some success playing a key role in forcing the civilian troop-feeding bureaucrats to remove trans fat from some key ration items (like the First Strike bar).  Now we have to get that same military feeding bureaucracy to go further -- to eliminate the trans fat Ranger bar, and remove every other trans-fat item, as well. 

We’ve been told that our efforts to eradicate trans fat from military feeding has destroyed our chances of ever having that same military feeding bureaucracy allow our bars into rations.  Because they’re “a vengeful cabal,” we’ve been told.  In a nutshell, this campaign has cost us lots of future revenue.  But so be it.  It’s worth it.  Because this is a Soldier Health issue.  Not a business issue. 

                                  Christian D’Andrea

                                  The D’Andrea Brothers