As reported by David Dishneau, Associated Press Writer
Food safety has gained a new flavor since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: food security. Any business seeking to sell food to the military now must pass regular security inspections besides the sanitation checks that have been required for decades.
Robert Gim, Vocelli Pizza franchise owner, considers the quarterly inspections a plus. 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.
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.
"We've certainly gotten into a lot more focus on food security or food defense," said Col. Cliff Walker, the unit's commander. "It's always been part of the overall sanitation and guidelines for the food we procure, but now it's higher on the list."
Foodservice terrorism is real. In 1984, 750 people were sickened by a salmonella outbreak when a fringe religious cult spiked salad bars at 10 restaurants in The Dalles, Ore. In 2004, Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned by a massive dose of dioxin that he said he believed he got during a dinner with the country's top security officials. The still-unsolved mystery was widely viewed as an attempt to derail his presidential bid.
The 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States prompted tighter food-security measures by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the federal departments of agriculture and defense.
Robert Kilburn, chief of the Veterinary Command's Approved Sources Division, said inspections are required for businesses that sell or cater food purchased by the Defense Department.
Restaurants that sell food to service members outside an installation's gates or deliver to individuals on military property aren't covered by the regulations, he said.
Vocelli Pizza is among a growing number of franchised and fast-food businesses on the list of approved sources, Kilburn said. Others include two Dunkin' Donuts shops in Maryland, a Little Caesars pizzeria in Radcliff, Ky.; a Pizza Hut in Everett, Wash.; and a Subway sandwich store in San Diego.
"Generally, the military is catering more to the all-volunteer force now and they are actually trying to provide more variety of food to the troops and to the sailors," Kilburn said. "This is something that's happened in the last few years - and I don't think that has anything to do with security. It has to do with the nature of society; they've changed their eating habits a little bit."