Army food inspection team in Japan trains for rapid testing

Twice now I’ve provided food safety talks to groups of U.S. military personnel from Fort Riley about to be deployed to Afghanistan to work on rebuilding projects. I always feel goofy because there are many in the audience who know far more about such safety matters than I do. And since arriving in Manhattan (Kansas) four years ago, I’ve gotten to know a number of food-safety types based in the military. They’ve got some awesome stuff and people.

So when I read in Stars and Stripes that people shouldn’t be too fearful of food products grown and manufactured in Japan and sold on U.S. military bases, like Camp Kinser in Okinawa, I’ll go with believing.

According to the story, the Army is setting up two laboratories — on Camp Kinser and on Camp Zama in mainland Japan — to perform more intensive testing of foods and beverages.

Two instructors from the Army Veterinary Science’s Food Safety and Defense Branch at Fort Sam Houston in Texas recently spent three weeks at Camp Kinser training lab technicians and managers to "rapid test" a variety of items.

Part of the Army mission is to protect troops from any possible threats posed by terrorists, who might see the food supply as an easy target, said Lt. Col. Margery Hanfelt, a special projects chief with the Department of Veterinary Science.

"Just to know that we have these capabilities to test right away is a deterrent," she said.

The Veterinary Service provides inspections for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and other Defense agencies. The Air Force has its own inspectors.

Inspectors — Army personnel and Japanese civilians — inspect all local vendors and the food served on the bases. There are about 55 inspectors throughout Japan, 15 of them on Okinawa.