[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                        April 11, 2008
Safety

Commissary participates in 
April food safety campaign

      FORT LEE, Va. (Defense Commissary Agency) -- The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) considers food safety such a priority that its 259 stores, including the Fort McCoy Commissary, building 1537, will be highlighting awareness of proper food handling and cooking measures throughout the month of April. Commissaries are open only to authorized patrons.

Photo: Pfc. Valencia Wilson (left), a Fort McCoy food inspector, talks about food safety with Sgt. Rich Hopkins of the 1st, 338th Training Support Battalion of the 181st Infantry Brigade. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
Pfc. Valencia Wilson (left), a Fort McCoy food inspector, talks about food safety with Sgt. Rich Hopkins of the 1st, 338th Training Support Battalion of the 181st Infantry Brigade. 
(Photo by Rob Schuette)

      The April campaign is part of DeCA's yearlong efforts to demonstrate what the commissary does to be a source of safe food, said Rick Page, DeCA acting director and a staunch advocate of food safety throughout his three decades as a military grocer.

      "Recent events in foodborne illness outbreaks have caused many consumers to wonder if their food supply is safe," Page said. "Our customers can be confident that we employ higher standards of safety and security to protect the food sold in commissaries."

      "Nationwide, food safety awareness is observed in September," he added. "However, DeCA's emphasis on food safety is such that we want to do this twice a year -- it's that important."

      Throughout April, customers will see displays and demonstrations with store personnel and military food safety inspectors on hand to answer questions about the food supply chain -- how products are safeguarded during delivery to the store, and how customers can protect themselves and their families when they take products home.      


"Our customers can be confident that we employ higher standards of safety and security to protect the food sold in commissaries."

Rick Page,
DeCA Acting Director

      

      Also in April, DeCA will announce its participation in Be Food Safe, a government program involving a group of nearly 30 retail grocery chains, to help educate consumers about the four steps of preventing foodborne illnesses in the kitchen: cleaning, separating, cooking and chilling foods.

      Customers will begin seeing Be Food Safe posters in the stores and information linked to DeCA's Food Safety Web page at http://www.commissaries.com.

      These measures and more are all part of DeCA's daily vigilance to help safeguard the products sold in its commissaries, said Army Col. Perry Chumley, DeCA's top food safety officer.

       To help introduce Be Food Safe to its customers, DeCA will unveil a series of shelf talkers, flyers, circular ads and informational brochures that echo the four core food safety practices of "clean, separate, cook and chill:"

  • Clean --  Frequent cleaning of bacteria can reduce its spread on hands, cutting boards, knives and kitchen countertops. Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.

  • Separate -- To avoid cross-contamination of bacteria, keep raw meat, poultry and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

  • Cook -- Improper heating and preparation can allow bacteria to survive. Use a thermometer to ensure food is safely prepared according to the product's cooking instructions.

  • Chill -- By chilling food properly, you can reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Bacteria spread fastest at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

      In the store, DeCA has a group of employees who are trained to examine products upon delivery, looking for any evidence of issues such as improper temperature during transport; condition of packaging materials; cleanliness of the carrier; and if the product was segregated from any potentially harmful elements during transportation.

      Military food inspectors, from both Air Force Public Health and Army Veterinary Service, randomly test products as they arrive and send samples to a regional laboratory for public health screening. In situations involving higher threat levels, DeCA has people available at the entrance of military bases to check delivery vehicles before they enter.

      "What we do in food safety goes well beyond anything you'd experience in the commercial sector," Chumley said. "Our store employees and the military food safety inspectors are part of a combined effort to ensure that we deliver a quality commissary benefit that is safe and secure."

      Fort McCoy civilian federal employees who have questions about food safety, such as hand washing, food handling and using the correct temperature in food preparation can contact the installation's Occupational Health Nursing Office (OHNO) for more information.

      OHNO can be reached by calling (608) 388-3209/2414, building 1679.

      For more information about Commissary programs and products in the Fort McCoy area, call the Fort McCoy Commissary, building 1537, at (608) 388-3542.

 

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