ROTA, Spain -- Public Health Activity – Italy partnered with the U.S. Navy to hold a five-day veterinary food inspection training event for Public Health Activity Italy and Rheinland-Pfalz U.S. Army Veterinary Corps personnel.
Since U.S. Army is the only U.S. military service with veterinary food inspectors, , the Army food inspectors support other branches of military service by checking their food, inspecting cargo airplanes and freight ships.
“We (veterinary food inspectors) provide food protection support to the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force and Army installations,” said Senior Food Safety Officer Chief Warrant 3 Ann Alexander. “Our job is to prevent foodborne illness by identifying risk when food is exposed to refrigeration failure, laboratory submission of food, receipt, and surveillance inspection, inspection of salvaged products and inspecting Meals Ready-to-Eat.”
The U.S. Army Veterinary Corps mission is to protect the warfighter and support the National Military Strategy. Among this, is to provide veterinary public health capabilities through food safety and defense for all U.S. armed services.
“Here in Rota, we inspect the U.S. Navy vessels food storage areas on a weekly basis when the ships are docked and serving food,” added Alexander. “We conduct surveillance inspection of their food for wholesomeness, storage sanitary conditions, conduct receipt inspections, and food inspection training upon request. Inspecting the ships and their freight is a unique training opportunity. We recently supported the USNS Medgar, a dry cargo ship, by inspecting food to ensure wholesomeness and extended the shelf life of expired products that they have.”
This year Public Health Activity-Italy supported the ship while docked for a couple days in Hunterston Quay, Scotland and Augusta Bay, Sicily, Italy.
The PHCE team’s enhanced knowledge of food inspection offers them the ability to conduct point of origin inspections of food products that are either sold to the DoD patrons, and/or, served at troop feeding locations. This process allows them to achieve their critical task list through didactic, hands-on practical exercises and real-life scenario testing.
“Food safety is important to everyone's health,” said Alexander. “In the military community, when someone is sick due to foodborne illness, it impacts mission readiness. If a service member is sick due to a foodborne illness or disease, this service member will now be out of fight or commission.”
This recent training event allowed Army food inspectors from various duty locations across Europe to train to one standard and share their past experiences. The food protection mission is comprised of food safety and food defense. The training reinforced the roles and responsibilities of the participants, regardless of rank.
The participants and instructors for this event consisted of Soldiers from various duty stations such as Belgium, Germany and Italy. This was the first joint-training event to date. According to Alexander, planning and coordination of both units, Public Health Activity Italy and Rheinland-Pfalz, was essential to ensuring the event operated smoothly and according to plan.
According to event planners, the practical exercises and scenarios provided the opportunity for Soldiers who are stationed in one or two-person duty locations to experience working with a full team of inspectors.
According to the participants, the final exam was the most challenging portion of the event. It consisted of four different tasks: an All Food and Drug Activity Recall, a simulated refrigeration failure at the Rota Commissary, laboratory sample submission request and a military sanitation inspection of the Rota Commissary.
All the participants were divided into four teams with a designated team NCOIC and were expected to work together to properly prioritize and complete all tasks in accordance with Technical Guide (TG) 376, the Installation Support Plan Program Instructions.
“The TG 376 lists in detail the priorities and responsibilities of an Army Veterinary Food Inspector specific to each facility supported on their military installation,” added Alexander.
The teams submitted their paperwork individually, and as a team, to be evaluated by PHA-Italy Senior Food Safety Officer Chief Warrant 3 Ann Alexander. In return, Alexander ensured all members understood how to properly complete each task and the corresponding documentation.