Storm damage on Guam helped spread bugs to commissary shelves
Stars and Stripes November 17, 2023
Typhoon damage to a warehouse on Guam last spring is partly to blame for insect infestations discovered months later at two military commissaries on the island, according to a spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency.
The U.S. Army Public Health Command — Pacific identified three species of bugs found in packages of dried foods like pasta, flour, rice, oatmeal and dog food, according to command spokeswoman Kathryne Gest. Two commissaries operate on Guam, one each at Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam.
The Army’s Public Health Activity — Guam in a Nov. 3 Facebook post reported packages of pasta and dry pet food infested with insects. DeCA spokesman Keith Desbois said he could not estimate how much product was infested.
“Until the investigation is complete, we cannot speculate on the number, quantity [of products] pulled,” Desbois told Stars and Stripes by email Tuesday.
Of the three species of beetles discovered — the red flour, red-legged ham and drugstore beetles — only the red-legged ham beetle posed a remote threat to public health, Gest said by email Nov. 9.
The beetle can secrete a harmful chemical; however, a person must ingest large quantities of the insect to be affected, according to an Army news release Nov. 6.
“No illnesses have been reported, and the commissary believes this to be an isolated event to product being received into Guam,” Desbois said.
A team of entomologists from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., determined the pests were present in products shipped to Guam, where storage conditions allowed them to spread, Desbois said.
He said water intrusion and leaks at the Guam Central Distribution Center “contributed to the environment that allowed the pests to proliferate.” The damp environment is a result of damage caused by Typhoon Mawar, which roared past the U.S. island territory May 24, he said.
“The safety and well-being of our customers is paramount to the Defense Commissary Agency, which is why these issues are investigated thoroughly,” Desbois said. “In accordance with food safety protocol and procedures, the Central Distribution Center in Guam is being thoroughly inspected and treated as necessary to ensure no further stored product pests are present.”
The Army Public Health Command, entomologists and other experts are inspecting food products on Guam to ensure they meet food and health safety standards or are removed from shelves and storerooms, he said.
“DeCA currently has senior leadership and their own food safety expert on-site during this process to ensure compliance with public health recommendations and standards,” he said.
DeCA and public health officials are trying to identify the initial source of the infestation, Desbois said.
“New product is in the pipeline for Guam. As it arrives our veterinary staff is carefully inspecting each lot before it goes to the commissaries on Guam,” he said.
Customers should return the affected products to the commissary of purchase for a full refund, Desbois said.