The Defense Commissary Agency considers food safety such a priority that its 259 stores will be highlighting this message throughout the month of April.
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.”
During April, customers will learn more about how commissary products are safeguarded during delivery to the store. Also, 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.
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 product exposure to any potentially harmful elements. As products arrive to the store, they are subject to inspection, as necessary, by military food inspectors, from both Air Force Public Health and Army Veterinary Service. In situations involving higher threat levels, DeCA works with installation security officials to check delivery vehicles before they enter a base.
“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.”