Kukes, Albania - Kosovo refugees are throwing away U.S.-donated rations by the thousands and have even burned some to keep warm, complaining that the food is inedible and has made people sick.
Piles of unopened packages, each labeled "A Food Gift from the People of the United States of America," litter the grounds of makeshift camps housing many of the 150,000 ethnic Albanians who have poured across the border in recent weeks.
"We know the Americans want to help, but the food is just no good," said Arolelina Ajazi, 18.
A Defense Department spokesman had trumpeted the 2,200-calorie meals as enough to feed one refugee for one day and "suitable for all faiths."
Desperate refugees fought for the packages, officially known as Humanitarian Daily Rations, when they were first distributed off the backs of trucks several days ago.
But some later said the meals - which include items such as three-bean casserole, legume stew and vegetarian goulash which are foreign to their normal diet - made their children vomit.
"We don't eat it because the children get a fever and throw up and are going to be poisoned," said Selvie Gashi, 27.
The refugees are used to a diet based on potatoes, rice and beans.
Many of the packages were discarded in fetid trenches and streams filled with garbage and excrement. But several families were seen huddling around campfires using boxes of rations to help fuel the flames.
Medical experts said similar problems were reported during a humanitarian mission in Somalia, where U.S. military rations were too rich for the local population.