By Senior Airman David Carbajal
451st Air Expeditionary Wing
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — The boardwalk is home to nearly 20 food facilities, where people commonly go for coffee, a quick meal or dessert. These food facilities are inspected regularly to ensure they are safe for the service members, contractors and civilians who work on Kandahar Airfield.
The 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Health inspector conducts formal monthly inspections and unannounced inspections almost weekly.
“We inspect these establishments to ensure they are safe for our warfighters,” said Master Sgt. John Kortes, deployed from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
The formal inspections are completed and comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code to ensure the inspection criteria is standardized.
As a public health craftsman, Kortes takes an in-depth look at the facilities’ overall sanitization.
“Sanitation is a big part of the health of a food facility,” said Kortes.
He will inspect the facility’s sanitation to ensure the environment is safe for food cooking and storage. The inspector will also observe the food handlers to ensure they have sound hand-washing practices and they wear gloves and hats while at the facility.
Properly cleaned and sanitized utensils and food-contact surfaces are also very important, said Kortes.
“We encourage them to use chlorine bleach to sanitize their equipment,” he said. “It’s the easiest and most effective way to ensure the surfaces and utensils are safe.”
From the food safety side, Kortes inspects the food cooking temperatures and the holding procedures.
“The food has to be cooked at the right temperature to be safe,” said Kortes, who has nearly 20 years of public health experience. “I also make sure the facilities have good product-rotation schedules.”
The rotation schedule refers to the timeframe that food can be held prior to consumption.
If a facility is not deemed satisfactory in a category, Kortes will train them not only to fix the issue, but how to keep it resolved, said Kortes.
“For the most part, the third country nationals are very receptive to the training and they want to do a good job,” he added.
Kortes sees this opportunity as a long-term project that will continue to improve even after he redeploys.
“Beyond the inspections, we forge a relationship with the facility workers,” Kortes said.
In the end, the inspector receives personal satisfaction in his accomplishments.
“I sleep better at night knowing that I’ve made a difference.”