The Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Navy Medical Research Unit (NAMRU) and Civil Affairs - East Africa (CAEA) led a food safety course with the Djiboutian Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) in Djibouti City, Nov. 28 - 30.
Participants received information on various topics ranging from food handling safety, storage, food reception, inspection and bacteriology. The knowledge exchange was tailored to sanitary inspectors from the MOA.
“The Ministry of Agriculture requested to do this exchange again, the last time being with a previous Civil Affairs team,” said U.S. Army Capt. James Terry, CAEA team chief. “The major impact for us is increasing the capabilities of the local government and the local populace to be able to fight foodborne diseases and illnesses. When dealing improperly with food, it could adversely impact your health.”
Participants were able to see some of the inspection equipment up-close, and the open forum setting was conducive to communication between the briefers and participants.
“We were able to lead blocks of instruction about everything you need to know and do from the point of receiving food from deliveries to the point of consumption,'' said U.S. Army Cpl. Demetrius Contreras, Veterinary Service Support (VSS) veterinary food inspector attached to the Expeditionary Medical Facility (EMF). “We also led a tour through our food storage warehouse and highlighted key things to look for during routine inspections and maintenance.”
In the future, the CAEA and VSS teams plan to tour local food storage warehouses and restaurants under the MOA and compare between practices. They also plan for future iterations of this course to leave participants with the ability to lead the course themselves and share the knowledge with those who couldn’t physically attend.
“Whether it's CJTF-HOA, U.S. Africa Command, the Department of State or the United States government, this course fits into a strategic objective of each entity,” said Terry. “It may seem like it's just a food safety course, just some food inspectors leading a class on how to properly handle food and the safety requirements, and the safety constraints of doing so, but it's a very big deal. Especially here in an area where many of the people may not know some of these strategies or maybe it's been a while since they've had someone put emphasis on that. These things are important, but once we get to the next point of ensuring this information gets out to the rural areas around here, then that’s when I think we will have a mission success, and that's something that I think we will have to follow up on.”