By Staff Sgt. Courtney Stephenson
Food Inspection within the Army is a small group that plays a big role in ensuring the fighting strength and health of Soldiers and their families.
Medical history has proven that most mortality has resulted from disease and non-battlefield injuries rather than battlefield injuries. It wasn’t until World War II that battle-related deaths outweighed DNBI.
This was in large part due to medical practices that included better food inspection and handling procedures. Soldiers who are deployed are more susceptible to illness due to stress, the environment and unsafe food handling techniques.
The Army, in order to remain an effective fighting force, needed Soldiers trained specifically in providing the barrier against food-related mortality.
Though a little confusing, food inspection is a large part of the Army Veterinary Corps. Veterinary Food Inspection personnel do not provide care for animals. Their mission is to ensure the safe procurement, distribution, storage and safe food handling practices of all Department of Defense subsistence, excluding the Air Force.
Food inspectors examine subsistence and provide training with food service personnel to prevent contamination and ensure that Soldiers are receiving wholesome foods.
Veterinary Corps Officers perform audits at food processing plants to verify proper safety measures, training, and inspections are performed.
These audits include sanitary practices, food sampling and submission for testing, food recall programs, and inspection of equipment.
VFI perform inspections of all facilities that sell or serve food to Soldiers, their dependents and DoD civilians.
These inspections include sanitary examinations of food storage areas, review of establishment physical security programs to eliminate intentional contamination of food supply, and ensuring food contract requirements are being honored during deliveries.
The Veterinary Corps may be a small entity, but their mission impacts the Army as a whole.
VFI will continue to serve the military community by preventing food contamination both intentional and unintentional, and ensuring that Soldiers receive subsistence that will nourish them throughout their mission.
There are currently three food inspection non-commissioned officers assigned to Fort Leonard Wood.
(Editor’s note: Stephenson is a Fort Leonard Wood food inspection non-commissioned officer. Some information in this article taken from “Military Food Inspection: Its History and its Effect on Readiness”).