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February 22, 2013

Spotlight

U.S. Army Public Health Command

(Editor’s note: “SPOTLIGHT” is a continuing series about tenant activities and missions at Fort McCoy.)

What is it?
The U.S. Army Public Health Command (PHC) office at Fort McCoy protects military personnel and their Families, Army civilians, and military retirees from food-borne disease through observing, auditing and assessing vulnerabilities.

The PHC is headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. and is divided into five regions. The PHC at McCoy is assigned to Region North, which encompasses 20 states, and is subordinate to the office at PHC District-Fort Knox, Ky.
PHOTO:  A Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist test the work surface at the Commissary. Photo by Theresa Fitzgerald
Staff Sgt. Mark Boals (right) observes as Sgt. Richard Smith, Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist assigned to the Public Health Command, inserts a swab sample of the work surface at the Commissary into a novaLUM luminometer. The luminometer will give a rapid reading to detect any high-energy living cells present on the surface. The reading will determine if the area is clean and ready for use, optimizing sanitation standing operating procedures.
(Photo by Theresa Fitzgerald)

Four active-component Soldiers are assigned to the office at Fort McCoy. The office has two branches with separate missions.

One branch, the Food and Safety Defense Officer (FSO), is a one-person operation. The FSO conducts commercial food audits of companies (i.e. Kraft, Hormel, etc.) wanting to sell products to the Department of Defense (DoD). The FSO ensures prime vendor food processing facilities are properly taken care of and U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration guidelines are followed. If the company is in compliance and passes the sanitary audit, the company can seek a contract to sell products to the DoD. The FSO administers nearly 182 food audits a year.

The other branch, Veterinary Food Inspection, performs daily and weekly sanitation inspections of all facilities that serve food, such as dining facilities, the commissary, all Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities (Child Development Center, McCoy’s Community Club and the Whitetail Ridge Chalet) and all Exchange vendors (Specialty Express Food Court, Snack Avenue and contracted food trucks). Restrooms at these facilities also are checked for cleanliness and sanitation.

Veterinary Food Inspectors also talk with the employees working in these facilities to build trust and rapport and to ensure the food preparers/servers are healthy.

State-funded dining operations (Wisconsin Military Academy, Challenge Academy and Wisconsin State Patrol) are exempt from inspection but may request to be inspected.

Veterinary Food Inspection has an office at the Commissary. Food products designated for human consumption are inspected upon receipt and in storage. To be accepted, items received must have a 50 percent shelf life remaining.

The PHC at Fort McCoy covers Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. Any food source on military property, such as Camp Ripley, Minn. or Army Reserve centers, is inspected.

Additionally, Reserve and Guard units contact the PHC to conduct serviceability inspections of Meals, Ready-to-Eat, which have a shelf life of up to three years depending on storage temperature.

What have they done?
PHC personnel conduct all food vulnerability assessments based on food security and safety. Last year they responded to 75 subsistence recalls of foods and nonprescription drugs that were known or suspected to be hazardous or to have been tampered with and that were or may have been in the DoD system. Any recall must be responded to within 24 hours. This involves making sure the product is off the shelf so it can’t be consumed and getting the word out if the recalled items were found to be on post. There have been four recalls this year.

The PHC incorporates the installation support plan daily, making risk-based assessments of public health requirements and matching existing resources against food safety and security needs provided to each entity on post.

During the mobilization mission, the PHC reported no food-borne illnesses, which they attributed to the installation support plan.

Two Soldiers in the Fort McCoy PHC office competed at the 2012 District Best Warrior competition for Best Warrior and Best Noncommissioned Officer (NCO), winning at the Fort Knox-District level. The Soldiers attributed their success to the many training areas available to them at Fort McCoy.

What do they have planned?
The Best Warrior and Best NCO will next compete at the Region-North level later this year.

The PHC office will experience a change in leadership as the NCO-in-charge is scheduled to make a permanent change of station.

Why are they important?
The PHC promotes health and prevents disease for anyone purchasing or eating food on the installation. They ensure food safety and defense practices and procedures are being adhered to with the preparation of food and beverages for consumption.

Soldiers assigned to the PHC are on-call 24-hours a day and work many weekends. As long as there are food operations on the installation, the PHC also will be located at McCoy.

Resources:
For more information about the PHC, call 608-388-3208.

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