by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Haley
SASEBO, Japan (June 22, 2016) - When Army veterinarians aren't taking care of pets and military working dogs, they're out accomplishing their primary mission, keeping food on base safe for military members, their families, and the rest of the Commander U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo community.
A sixth of Americans get sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages every year. Many different disease-causing microbes, or pathogens, can contaminate foods, so there are many different foodborne infections. A food-borne illness can occur 24 hours to two weeks after consuming something contaminated, making the ability to prevent contaminated or spoiled food from getting to unwitting potential victims a vital task.
“The more I get into it, the longer I’ve been in the Army, the more I understand how important it really is,” says Army Pfc. Diego Susbilla, a veterinary food inspector specialist, “You can’t do the mission without food. If you have bad food and a whole bunch of sick people that can’t do their job, the whole mission is a failure.”
The Army is the only branch of service with personnel trained in food inspection. Thus, as part of their duty, Army veterinarians are tasked with inspecting all food on base, to include the commissaries and restaurants. There is a team of Army food inspectors on every military installation around the world, no matter the branch of service.
“The Army Public Health commissions veterinarians to not only care for the military working dogs, but also provides for farm-to-fork inspections of all food sold to the United States Government,” said Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Philips, a veterinary food inspector specialist.
Before becoming the military's food inspectors, Soldiers must attend an eight-week course at the Army Medical Department Center and School, Department of Veterinary Science at the Food Safety and Defense Branch at Fort Sam Houston.
The inspectors at CFAS perform daily walkthroughs of the commissary, galley, and base restaurants to check for things such as rodents, cleanliness, and other sanitary issues. Inspectors also check for date rotation to ensure that the freshest products are being put out for sale. Before a single pallet of food is allowed onboard USS Bonhomme Richard, USS Green Bay or any pier-side vessel, Army food inspectors check it first.
“Sasebo inspects over $30 million of food that is delivered to the CFAS area of operations,” said Philips, “While rejection determination is a normal part of our duty, the food that is delivered is normally of outstanding quality that confirms to contractual requirements”
Inspections are also held on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Weekly inspections are a culmination of daily inspections and are usually performed by the non-commissioned officer in charge of the inspection team. Quarterly inspections are performed by the officer in charge of the inspection team.