Public Health Command ensures food safety
November 19, 2012
One of the duties of the U.S. Army Public Health Command is to ensure that preparing and handling food safely becomes engrained in the Department of Defense culture and becomes common practice at home as well as the workplace.
"Great food safety habits can start simply and lead to a healthier lifestyle," explained Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ronald Biddle, USAPHC senior food safety officer. "Food safety begins and ends with proper hand washing."
But hand washing is just one piece in the total food safety picture.
USAPHC's Veterinary Services Portfolio provides food quality, safety and defense guidelines, policies and procedures for Army veterinary service personnel worldwide. These guidelines enable the Army veterinary food inspectors to provide their customers with a high-quality and wholesome food supply.
Army veterinary service personnel provide public health services in many locations around the world.
"They perform sanitation inspections of facilities, to include inspection of products received, stored and sold," said Biddle. "They provide these services to the Army and Air Forces Exchange Service establishments; Defense Commissary Agency establishments; Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities; and troop feeding activities. These inspections are performed on Navy and Marine installations throughout the nation and abroad."
Ken Salazar, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and a farmer/rancher, notes the importance of food safety and defense.
"I think it is paramount that we take proper steps to ensure the safety of our food supply and domestic livestock herd," he said.
Col. Paul Whippo, Food Protection Program manager, said Salazar's comment not only reminds individuals of how important the safety and security of the food supply is, but how it is integrated from farm to fork.
"As members of Public Health Command, we develop and implement food safety policies for the Army. We also work in support of our sister services to ensure that the DOD food supply is safe for service members, retirees and their family members," explained Whippo.
"We work with other federal and foreign regulatory agencies to make sure that we cover as much of the total picture possible. The bottom line is, without the inspector in the commissary; Troop Issue Subsistence Agency; Meal, Ready-to Eat plant; MWR; AAFES facilities; and the auditor in the commercial plants, our system and the safety and security of our military food supply would not exist. They ensure our military forces and their families are not at risk," he added.
Military inspectors are frequently engaged in highlighting food safety and providing information to DOD personnel and their families on installations around the world.
"Visual aids such as flyers and food safety displays are placed near our military food servicing facilities," said Biddle.
The USAPHC also provides educational outreach through electronic (e-mails and presentations) and physical (information booths and posters) means to better prepare consumers to understand the importance of food safety.
"We all must be vigilant to prevent food-borne illness," Biddle emphasized.
Food-borne illnesses can be as incapacitating as bombs and bullets, and they occur in homes as well as on the battlefield.
Col. Robert Webb, director of the Veterinary Services Portfolio, is well aware of the impact that safe and quality food has on the DOD.
"It was Napoleon Bonaparte who said, 'An Army marches on its stomach,'" said Webb. "By that Napoleon meant a well-fed Army is a formidable one, and his statement is as true today as it was in Napoleon's time."