MARINE CORPS AIR STAION, Ariz. -- Service members may wonder if the food in the commissary, Burger King and other station facilities are up to par. Thanks to the Army, there is someone on station assigned to ensure station facilities are the best possible.
Army Spec. Chris Garcia, San Diego District Veterinary branch food inspector, is the station’s guarantee for quality produce, dairy and meat products.
The Army provides food inspectors for all the commissaries in the military. The Army is the only branch of service that has this type of military occupational specialty available.
“The civilian community doesn’t have medical food inspectors in their grocery stores,” said Kimberly Soares, station commissary store director. “Those stores also don’t just have Food and Administration and United States Department of Agriculture approved food. That’s what makes the commissaries unique. Everything in the store is inspected. The inspector checks not just food, but also sanitation.
Garcia is the only food inspector at the station. As a food inspector, his main responsibility is the station commissary and its products.
“I conduct inspections on the produce and dairy,” said Garcia, a native of San Antonio. “I make sure the vendors are keeping up with their contractual requirements. Each Tuesday and Thursday, when deliveries are dropped off, I take three samples from the produce and dairy. I’ll get (for example) an apple, lemon and an orange and inspect them.”
Food inspectors are also responsible for checking meat products when they come in.
“When meat delivery trucks come in, I also inspect that,” said Garcia. “If an order of meat is supposed to weigh eight pounds, and I notice there is more fat than muscle, then there is a problem. Companies normally try to rip you off by giving you meat with more fat than muscle.”
After performing inspections and walk throughs, the food inspector then writes a daily report containing all the discrepancies and sends it to his officer-in-charge at the Yuma Proving Ground.
The reports are used by the government to determine whether or not to allow vendors renew their contracts.
Garcia also conducts daily checkups to make sure there are no problems in the commissary.
“I’ll use a quick reference food guide while I conduct the daily walk through,” said Garcia. “The guide names everything to look for during walk throughs. I also check to make sure there are no expired items on the shelf. If there are expired items then it’s taken off the shelf and returned to the vendor. I also look for general maintenance problems inside and outside the commissary.”
Soares added that when people return a product to the commissary because it was spoiled or for whatever reason, the inspector also handles that.
“He will look into what was wrong with the product,” said Soares. “If he can’t figure it out, then he can send it to be tested in a lab.”
The food inspector does a service to every patron who shops at the commissary by assuring the quality of products in the commissary, said Soares.
Garcia also conducts brief checks at the 7-Day Store, Burger King, Subway, Godfather’s Pizza, the mess hall, Cactus Bowl and the station club.
“Some of them I check once a week and the others once a month,” said Garcia. “All I do is check to see if there is any expired food and glance over everything. If something looks wrong, then I’ll go further and make a suggestion. Normally, they are good about fixing the situation right away without any problems.”
Along with fixing problems that can be found in the station’s facilities, the food inspector also goes to Yuma Proving Ground and the military installation in El Centro.
The food inspector position is not well known to station personnel, but it’s important for them to know what he does because his job is important, said Soares.