News: Public health leads fight against food-borne illness
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - While most base efforts to support the flying mission are easy to identify, a handful of public health technicians from the 354th Medical Operations Squadron take charge of performing food inspections of all public facilities on base, ensuring our airmen are safe and able to complete the mission.
Armed with thermometers, the current food code, litmus paper and alcohol pads, these Icemen work to ensure airmen remain free from food-borne illnesses thereby maintaining a high operations tempo.
Each month, public facilities containing food preparation areas such as kitchens and kitchenettes receive regular inspections - much more frequent than public facilities lacking food handlers.
Senior Airman Sebastian Morales, 354th MDOS public health journeyman, said the youth center receives a monthly and quarterly inspection, concentrating on the kitchen and every quarter on the building's facilities where children learn and play.
According to Morales, the size of the facility has a lot to do with the duration of inspections, determining how long the process will take an individual airman to review critical items including proper food storage, cross contamination prevention and ensuring food handlers know proper cooking temperatures.
The commissary, one of the larger facilities on Eielson, can possibly take more than an hour to inspect because of the many areas that require careful scrutiny to ensure proper food storage and handling techniques. Smaller facilities usually require less time, especially when there are fewer areas where food is handled or stored.
Morales said public health inspections are designed to take care of Airmen and facilitate on-base personnel in meeting Air Force standards.
"The most important thing is keeping the facilities clean because anything dirty can potentially get on the food making people sick," he said.
This proactive approach helps minimize the potential threat of food poisoning. This is particularly important in the event of a widespread outbreak as result of contaminated food.
"If a food outbreak comes out, there will be those asking what we did to prevent it," Morales said. "That's where public health comes in."
Staff Sgt. Nick Delaney, 354th MDOS non-commissioned officer in charge of deployment medicines and public health assessment, said this is especially important during deployments.
"While deployed to the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, the focus for public health in regards to food inspections is to protect the force from food-borne illness and keep military [personnel] in the shop and not in their quarters," said he said.
Whether serving at home or abroad, taking time to double-check facilities and making sure they are operating correctly keeps the mission moving forward.
Paying close attention to detail while on the job pays dividends by promoting a safer place for Icemen and their families to work and live.
Date Posted:06.29.2012 14:51
Location:EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, AK, US
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