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USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service Inspector Relays Food Safety Messages Across Borders from Montana to Georgia

Several months ago, I was selected to participate in a meat processing project that took me from Great Falls, Montana to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.   I went under the auspices of the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs (CNFA) – an organization supported by USAID – to offer advice on the methods and benefits of meat processing technology, as well as basic food safety skills.   Early on in my visit, I came to understand the rich history and culture of this nation, which leant a heavy influence over their methods and approaches toward meat processing – the ax and chopping-block method of cutting meat stuck out as a preferred taste for Georgians.  This is not a criticism, rather a tip-of-the-hat to their cultural awareness.

The company I met with had multifaceted production processes, which ran the gamut from ready-to-eat product, fresh-cut meats, to production-line ready sausage recipes.  In observing their techniques, I saw an opportunity to impart some knowledge and experience I have gained as an FSIS inspector. A significant part of my duties include preventing foodborne illness, so I wanted to discuss the importance of food safety – a recurring theme and mission for FSIS.  We were able to talk about our testing protocols for Salmonella and E.coli, share statistics that illustrate the positive impact of our respective efforts, and help one another better understand how to further reduce the threat of food borne illness.

My takeaway from this visit was multifold.  Most significantly, it was a reflection of the advancement in our efforts to improve food safety inspection methods, but also that as an inspector I can confidently say our promise to safeguarding the public is working and the message is spreading throughout the world.

Zoltan Toth, Import Meat Inspector for USDA Food Safety Inspection Service, in Georgia during a visit to a meat processing company.

Zoltan Toth, Import Meat Inspector for USDA Food Safety Inspection Service, in Georgia during a visit to a meat processing company.

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