Uncle Sam has tried to feed millions of hurricane victims this year with Meals-Ready-to-Eat, or MREs, only to fear that some of them have become Meals-Ready-for-eBay.
The government is looking into whether eBay sellers in Gulf Coast states are trying to profit from military foodstuffs handed out for free following hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
Representatives for eBay, the online auctioneer company, say it is impossible to prove that any of the meals were meant for hurricane victims. They note that MREs can be bought in camping stores and Army-Navy surplus outlets.
But at least some of the MREs advertised on the Web site are being sold from Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and other Gulf states, and are individually packaged with a disclaimer that clearly notes: “U.S. Government property - Commercial resale is unlawful.”
“If it’s true, that’s pretty reprehensible,” said Cheryl Guidry Tyiska, deputy director of the National Organization of Victim Assistance. “There are a lot of pretty hungry people down there who could use the food for free.”
One seller, identified as from “Louisiana Cajun Country,” described being hit “with the eye of Rita.” Bidding had reached $50.99 for the seller’s unopened case of MREs by Saturday.
The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general has asked investigators to examine the suspicious MREs on eBay, spokeswoman Tamara Faulkner said. In the past, the Pentagon has complained about MRE sales on eBay, Defense Logistics Agency spokeswoman Marcia Klein said. The agency has not decided whether to pursue the current eBay sales, though officials are considering all avenues, she said.