LANDSTUHL, Germany – In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, veterinarians at Public Health Command Europe perform a vital role in ensuring the military community has a safe supply of meat products.
Recently, Lt. Col. Alan Leach, veterinarian and chief of Public Health Command Europe’s Veterinary Services, conducted an audit at a meat plant in Ireland to enable a secondary meat supply for commissaries, military food service facilities, dining facilities, and Army, Air Force, and Navy Exchange Service establishments, in case supplies shipping from U.S. based vendors are disrupted as they were this year.
The primary beef supply to commissaries within Europe comes from the United States, which can lead to shortages if there is anything that causes delays in the shipping process.
In case of a delay of meat shipments from the U.S., the plant in Ireland will be able to provide food to support exercises and troops in Europe and Africa.
”We play a crucial role in keeping the food supply for Department of Defense personnel and their families’ safe through inspections and testing of the food products used by the military,” stated Leach. “Veterinarians and food inspectors are responsible for ensuring our food is safe by establishing that suppliers comply with all U.S. food safety laws and regulations, and that the food is protected until it is delivered to the consumer. ”
Veterinarians in the military are better known for the animal care mission and taking care of military working dogs, but they are also responsible for food safety and food defense.
According to Leach, this includes inspections and education that covers everything from audits of food production facilities, proper food storage, preventing cross contamination of foods during preparation, proper cooking temperatures, clean up and disinfection, and even hand washing.
“We have to ensure that the food and water that comes from production facilities in Europe is produced and manufactured in accordance with the standards we have in the United States and in the host country,” said Leach. “We pay particular attention to potentially hazardous food items like meats and dairy products.”
PHCE’s food protection mission is conducted by Army veterinarians, warrant officers, veterinary food inspection specialists, as well as Army civilians and local nationals.
Public Health Command Europe is responsible for providing comprehensive military public health programs in support of garrisons, training areas, and contingency/combat forces operating in the U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command, and U.S. Africa Command areas of operation to sustain force health protection and readiness.
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