By Sgt. Steven S. Collins
UGLJEVIK, Bosnia (Army News Service, March 18, 1997) -- Every day, thousands of bread loaves are produced by five bakeries in northern Bosnia. These loaves are then shipped to SFOR mess halls and greedily consumed by hungry soldiers at every meal.
To ensure the bread is safe for consumption, members of the 72nd Medical Detachment (Veterinary Services) at Tuzla Eagle Base inspect the bakeries periodically.
"Because of the war, the infrastructure of this country has been damaged, so the environment is sometimes unsafe for food preparation," said Warrant Officer Roman I. Chyla, a food specialist for the 72nd. "We look at the facilities, how the food is handled, how clean the trucks are that move the food and several other factors which determine whether the food is safe."
A team of specialists from the 72nd recently convoyed to the Zlatni Klas bakery in Ugljevik, northeast of Tuzla Eagle Base. The bakery, operated by Vasilic Milovan, produces bread for American and Russian troops at nearby base camps. It employees seven people, which includes three bakers. It is the only bakery in the Ugljevic area.
"This bakery was not bad at all," said Capt. Robin K. King, veterinarian for the 72nd. "We were not there during production hours, though. Most of the bakeries operate during the evening hours and then ship the bread in the morning."
One problem facing the team is the lack of established quality standards in the bakery, said King, a native of Rhinebeck, N.Y. In the United States or Western European countries, bakers follow strict procedures for baking temperatures and times. In Bosnia, however, bakers "bake until it is done, or bake it until it is hot. Not very scientific and potentially very unsafe," she said.
The team toured the bakery, looking for signs of uncleanness or other evidence of unsanitary conditions, such as presence of rodents or insects. The Zlatni Klas bakery passed the inspection and will continue to make up to 4,000 loaves a day for American and Russian soldiers.
"If a bakery does not pass inspection, it is not allowed to deliver to American soldiers until the problem or problems are corrected," said Chyla. "We give them a time frame in which to correct the problems but if not corrected, the bakery is taken off the delivery list."
Only one bakery, a business in Croatia, has been penalized for unsanitary conditions, said Chyla, a resident of San Antonio, Texas.
The inspections also allow the team to ensure the U.S. Army is getting what it ordered.
"We make sure no one is out there making a quick buck on the U.S. government," said Chyla.
The food inspection teams only inspect bakeries in Bosnia, since no meat or diary products are purchased locally. However, in Germany and other Western European nations, teams inspect all facilities responsible for delivering food to American military bases.
"We do the inspections for the entire Department of Defense, whether for the Army, the Air Force or the Navy," said Chyla.
Food inspection is only one mission for the 72nd, said King. As the only veterinarian in Bosnia, King provides medical care to medical working dogs at all base camps, including those of other SFOR nations. She also educates soldiers on avoiding the dangers of local stray dogs and cats. Food inspection gives her and her teammates the opportunity to get out and meet locals, as well as working with preventative medicine teams and other medical professionals.
"Recently, there was an outbreak of food poisoning here (at Eagle Base) and I was called in to look things over. Our team did the essential footwork on identifying the problem and we helped isolate the problem," said King.
Chyla, a native of Poland who emigrated to the United States in the late 1980s, likes the opportunity to meet people who share his Eastern European ethnicity and language. "This has been a really neat experience to meet people on all sides of the conflict. I compare the three sides I hear and can now understand the conflict a little better. These kinds of trips help us and them understand each other."
(Editor's note: Collins is with the 129th Military Public Affairs Detachment.)
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