Food Safety Heroes

Date posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Blog poster: Terryn Laird
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In honor of National Food Safety Education Month, the NEHA is highlighting members of the food safety workforce whose passion, dedication, and contributions have had a significant impact on those around them. We are proud to highlight these professionals and grateful for the work they do.

J. Victor Baldovinos, Environmental Health Director | City of South Padre Island

Victor has distinguished himself with several accomplishments. He worked with the late Ruth Hendy to lead municipalities in requiring both Certified Food Manager and Food Handler Training. He has hosted the Texas Environmental Health Association - South Texas Chapter Annual Education Conference on South Padre Island for the last 17 years to bring training and heighten awareness to the regulatory field. AS a result of his leadership the City of South Padre Island Health Department has been recognized as the Ruth Hendy Award Winners multiple times, and Victor is sought out by many municipalities for guidance. Victor hopes to one day run for the NEHA Board to represent Texas.

William Carlson, Environmental Health Specialist III (Retired) | Eagle County Government

William "Bill" Carlson worked in the environmental health field for 50 years. After working his way up through a supervisory position in Michigan, he returned to where he loved it the most, the mountains of Colorado, for the last 20 years of his career. There he worked in the field with restaurants as an environmental health specialist III. Bill's dedication to education and working one-on-one with restaurants paid off in the countless relationships he developed that have provided a framework for the partnerships the health department in Eagle County relies on every day. The groundwork Bill laid proved especially instrumental during this pandemic while restaurants self-report, reach out for guidance, and work in partnership with the county government in keeping the health and safety of the public priority number one. While Bill retired this past May, his legacy of partnership, education, and accountability live on.

Chick-fil-A's Food Safety Team, Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A's Food Safety Team is comprised of extraordinarily talented and dedicated experts who support over 2,000 Chick-fil-A restaurants across the U.S. and Canada. With corporate's full commitment to a culture of food safety and excellence, the Restaurant Food Safety Team provides:
  • Rapid response to technical inquiries and emergency calls through a team of food safety consultants.
  • Emergency management, including preparedness and response for recalls, disasters, COVID-19.
  • New equipment and process reviews.
  • Research and development of innovative solutions.

The team's efforts to establish a food safety foundation helped prepare the organization to respond quickly with modified operations and precautionary measures during the pandemic. The team works closely with regulatory agencies and partners with business and industry experts to prioritize food safety, public health protection, and hospitality for a "Safe Service First" commitment to the well-being of team members and guests. Thank you to the heroes of the Chick-fil-A Food Safety Team for their relentless commitment and around-the-clock dedication to food safety.

Patrick Doornek, Consumer Environmental Health Coordinator | City of Milwaukee Health Department

Pat has always been a leader on his team, particularly when it comes to food safety and outbreaks. During COVID-19, his role has shifted or expanded to work with not only just food operators but also other establishments. Pat helps lead a team that investigates COVID-19 outbreaks while working with establishments on mitigation plans to ensure safe, effective business measures are in place. This high-demand role is subject to significant scrutiny. Pat remains unfazed and maintains the importance of safe health and hygiene practices at the forefront of his work.

Amy Foster, Lead Advisor Restaurant Food Safety Regulations | Chick-fil-A, Inc.

Amy has been a superhero for Chick-fil-A (CFA) restaurants during this unsteady time. She serves as an ambassador of the food code within Chick-fil-A restaurants. Amy is constantly on the phone with local health departments in an effort to clearly articulate the COVID-19 prevention and remediation measures the restaurant was asked to share. Time and time again, Amy has encouraged local health departments to support CFA protocol with her robust expertise on the food code in light of the constantly changing regulations set forth to combat the virus.

Cheryn Hargrave, REHS/RS, CP-FS, Food Safety Manager | United Supermarkets, L.L.C.

Cheryn Hargrave works tirelessly to ensure that all food safety related practices for United Supermarkets including but not limited to safe food handling practices, chemical usage, pest control, and labeling are performed safely and correctly. She has worked directly with Texas state legislators in matters related to food safety and the food code. Her passion for food safety is evident to anyone who knows or works with her.

Caleb James, Food Safety Compliance Specialist III | Washington State Department of Agriculture

Throughout his tenure at the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), Caleb has worn several hats expertly, including food and feed inspector, food and feed rapid response team coordinator, and retail coordinator. He always has a "can-do" attitude when taking on new projects, and he always shares his knowledge humbly and effectively. WSDA is lucky to have such a dedicated team member.

Stefanie Johnson, Environmental Health Specialist | McDonough County Health Department

Stefanie has over 20 years of experience in food safety at the county level. Her hard work and dedication to promoting food safety have changed the behaviors of many food handlers. To that, we salute you.

Ashmeet Kaur, Global Food Safety Manager | Facebook

Ashmeet has a deep passion for Food Safety and HACCP. She brings so much joy to this challenging role and has the magical ability to connect with staff and managers in a very positive manner. She's incredibly knowledgeable and is a valuable addition to our team. She has taught so many chefs, managers, and employees the role of safety in a culinary setting. She teaches the science of safety in a very artistic manner.

Laurie Kidwell, Rapid Response Team Supervisor | Indiana Department of Health

Laurie works tirelessly to improve the food safety system in Indiana. She was the leading force in creating the rapid response team in Indiana to bring food safety partners together and integrate the food safety system. Laurie continually works on food safety projects while being pulled in many different directions, especially during COVID-19. Laurie is a food safety hero and a leader in the environmental health field.

Dustin Long, Senior Environmental Health Specialist | City of Frisco Environmental Health

Dustin works diligently to assure food safety in the City of Frisco. He is dedicated to providing education to food service operators and through the COVID-19 pandemic has been a frontline environmental health specialist assuring public health.

Joshua Lopez, Food Inspector | NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets

Joshua Lopez's prudent sampling, intuitive nature, and investigative mindset have not ceased to amaze. He has executed food seizures and multiple recalls including a must mention FDA import alert for Fruit Jelly Cups containing konjac, for a choking hazard. His IFPTI fellowship program published work on cold-brewed coffee that will certainly pave the way for scientific dialogue and regulatory action in relation to the unknown hazards associated with cold-brewed coffee. He is truly a food safety professional; his passion and dedication are seen every day in his hard work.

Patrick Maloney, MPAH, CHO, RS, Brookline MA. Chief of Environmental Health (Retired) | Brookline Department of Public Health

Patrick Maloney has used National Food Safety Education Month as an opportunity to further education. For many years, Pat has presented his workshop, "Food Safety for Seniors," to older adult service, food pantries, and other community service groups in Massachusetts and he continues to present within his community. Pat has recently retired from service with the Brookline Department of Public Health but he continues to educate others as an instructor and adjunct professor in New England.

Rick Manthei, Commercial Feed Program Supervisor | Minnesota Department of Agriculture Food and Feed Safety Division

Rick is a tireless advocate for the Commercial Feed Program of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Through his 25-year career, Rick has risen from a field inspector to a field staff supervisor. Rick is never shy to share his knowledge of food or animals, especially on the topic of medicated feed regulation. He has been instrumental in helping the program adopt electronic inspections, the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Veterinary Feed Directive regulation, and Animal Feed Regulatory Program Standards. We can always count on Rick to do the right thing, even though it may not always be easy.

Barry E. Parsons, FMP, CPFM, CP-FS, CCFS, PCQI, Food Safety Senior Consultant and Director of Training | Paster Training, Inc.

Barry Parsons is a Food Safety Hero because of his passion and commitment to keeping the global food supply safe. Barry has over 30 years of experience managing various facilities including quick service and scratch restaurants, farm and garden centers, bakeries, and supermarkets. He has used his wide scope of experience to lead Paster Training's team of instructors as Director of Training. Barry's innovative approach to training has allowed Paster Training to continue supporting clients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic through virtual training and consulting support. Barry's hard work and dedication to his craft are unmatched and Paster Training is grateful he is part of the team.

Diane Piar, REHS, Environmental Health Specialist II | Southern Nevada Health District

Diane Piar is the sole registered environmental health specialist who volunteered to work Laughlin, Nevada. She does plan reviews; inspects food facilities, schools, pools and spas, and septic systems; and handles environmental health complaints in the community. She has tackled her regular inspection workload throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and has done additional outreach, training, and reviewed standard operating procedures (SOPs) and re-opening plans for the food and beverage industry in Laughlin. Diane understands the challenges of small business and corporate structure yet educates to "the one." Diane is an environmental health hero and her coworkers are honored to have worked with her.

Mike Starks, Environmental Health Specialist | Milwaukee Health Department

Mike Starks has been actively involved in COVID Complaint response. He takes his work seriously and values the role of education in food safety. He works hand-in-hand with operators to find a solution that addresses the complaint but also assures businesses may resume operations safely and effectively. He believes in the importance of his job and feels that hard work is essential to maintain a strong character. He's reliable, dedicated, and disciplined and places a high value on his professional success. Mike Starks is a compassionate and kind inspector that always has the best interests of his operators in mind and will go out of his way to help in any situation thrown his way. He is an asset to the Health Department and his community. He is an awesome colleague that cares and always tries to resolve everyone's issues and he has a big heart.

Richard Stephens, Biological Administrator II | Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Richard Stephens has been in food safety for 15 years. He spent the first half of his career as a microbiologist in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Food Lab where he analyzed samples for a variety of pathogens. He then brought his lab knowledge to the inspection side and has spent the second half of his career as the Division of Food Safety's recall coordinator and lab liaison. While there, Richard coordinated numerous national recalls within Florida, presented on food safety topics to industry, and was on the workgroup that published the GOOD Samples guide. For this work, he was awarded two Food and Drug Administration leveraging collaboration awards. Recently, Rick moved back to the laboratory to manage the dairy section. An International Food Protection Training Institute Cohort VII fellow, Richard continues to expand his expertise in a variety of food safety fields.

Rachel Stradling, JD, MCIEH, CP-FS, REHS, Environmental Health Manager | Alexandria (VA) Health Department

Rachel has led her environmental health team in partnering with the City of Alexandria's Visitors Bureau to create ALX Promise, a partnership with industry to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while promoting local businesses. The program created voluntary standards that exceeded the mandatory state COVID-19 prevention requirements and provided training and recognition for participating restaurants and other businesses. This innovative program received recognition from the First Lady of Virginia and Forbes magazine, among others.

Paula Vile, Food Safety Specialist Senior | Virginia Department of Agriculture

Paula is a very knowledgeable food safety specialist who goes out of her way to assist with educating food handlers in retail food settings. She is always kind and patient when explaining regulations and obtaining compliance. Paula's faithful service of ensuring food safety to the citizens of the Virginia Commonwealth is unprecedented.

Jonathan Wheeler, Environmental Health Manager/HACCP Coordinator | South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

Jon Wheeler consistently goes above and beyond when it comes to food safety. He supports both the South Carolina retail food operator and the state health inspector who often move in different directions, to explain special process HACCP in the field and to try new ideas. Jon has also helped those who want to learn more about special process HACCP by tirelessly coaching them through writing their own HACCP plan and sharing practical knowledge that is used every day in the field. Even outside of work, Jon shares his immense food safety knowledge with those who wish to learn. Jon is dedicated to helping operators realize their food dreams safely and those he works with recognize his outsized impact.

Recognize Your Food Safety Hero

We are accepting submissions for Food Safety Heroes throughout September. View our National Food Safety Education Month page to see the other ways that we celebrate the observance and to access our food safety resources.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect the policy, endorsement, or action of NEHA or the organization where the author is employed. NEHA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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