Naafi review sparks fears for sarnie army

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Napoleon stood by the principle that an army marches on its stomach. But a Ministry of Defence announcement last night might leave the British armed services feeling slightly queasy.

After the salmonella scare over a batch of its sandwiches had barely died down, the MoD said it has called in Marks & Spencer to carry out a review of its front line sandwich supplier, the Naafi.

The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes has been the butt of squaddies' jokes for generations.

But last night Nicholas Soames, the Minister for the Armed Forces, said it was being reviewed by a Marks & Spencer executive.

Geoffrey Dart has been brought into the MoD on secondment from Marks & Spencer to report to Michael Portillo, the Defence Secretary, on Naafi by 31 January.

The review is certain to raise fears among the ranks that the Naafi is being set up to be privatised.

The modern Naafi does far more than supply the traditional squaddie's "tea and a wad". The Naafi runs shops on military bases all over the country, many like modern corner-shop groceries. It has also won the contract to supply food to all the armed services, including ship-to-ship deliveries to British warships patrolling the seas off Bosnia.

The Naafi also runs armed services clubs and discotheques, while soldiers in tents in Bosnia have relied on its front line trading arm, the expeditionary forces institute, for everything from razor blades to toothpaste.

Mr Soames, the former minister for food, said: "As a Crown-owned body, the structure and scope of business of the Naafi will be subjected to the normal prior options tests."