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Question of the Day
FREDERICK, Md. — The Army is watching Vocelli Pizza.
It knows where Frederick franchise owner Robert Gim keeps the mozzarella and whether his tap water is pure. It checks his burglar alarms and keeps an eye on his cleaning supplies.
The measures follow a decision by the military after the September 11 terrorist attacks that states a business now trying to sell it food must pass regular security inspections, in addition to the food-safety checks in place for decades.
Mr. Gim, whose shop is two blocks from Fort Detrick, welcomes the quarterly inspections. A letter from the U.S. Army Veterinary Command clearing him to cater events at the installation is proudly posted near the cash register for customers to read.
“It kind of puts it in the back of people’s minds that Vocelli might be a little bit more special — that we have standards that might be higher than another food establishment in the area,” he said.
The pizzeria, franchised by Vocelli Pizza Inc. of Scott, Pa., is among about 1,800 approved food sources in the continental United States and 2,300 worldwide. The Veterinary Command, based at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, conducts the inspections as part of its mission to ensure food safety and quality.
“Most of the protein in food comes from animals, so that’s how the veterinarians got into the food-inspection business,” said Col. Cliff Walker, the unit’s commander.
Food-service terrorism is real. In 1984, about 750 people were sickened by a salmonella outbreak when a fringe religious sect spiked salad bars at 10 restaurants in the Dalles, Ore.
The 2001 attacks in the U.S. prompted tighter food-security measures by the Food and Drug Administration and the federal Departments of Agriculture and Defense.
“Military installations are ideal targets for terrorists,” the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps advised in a food-safety newsletter in spring 2003.
“We’ve certainly gotten into a lot more focus on food security or food defense,” Col. Walker said. “It’s always been part of the overall sanitation and guidelines for the food we procure, but now it’s higher on the list.”
Robert Kilburn, chief of the unit’s Approved Sources Division, said inspections are not required of restaurants that sell food to service members outside a military installation’s gates or deliver to individuals on military property.
He said another reason for the changes is that the military is catering to an all-volunteer force that wants more variety in food choices.
Mr. Gim, whose pizzeria is the first approved business in Frederick, said he underwent inspection in hopes of catering events at Fort Detrick. For his first inspection in November, he paid $75 to have his water tested, demonstrated that his alarms were working and showed that toxic chemicals such as cleaning supplies were stored away from the food-preparation area.
Those factors and the quarterly timetable make the military inspections more stringent than those conducted by the local health department two or three times a year, Mr. Gim said.
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