Faces of Food Safety: Introducing Jeffery Jacobsen
Food safety is at a crossroads. The public health community gains more knowledge every day about the evolving risks of foodborne illness, and every day we develop new tools and understanding to combat the dangerous pathogens which cause those illnesses.
In such an environment, every member of our team has to be focused on growing, learning and using the best science available to protect public health. A member of our team who exemplifies this standard is Jeffery Jacobsen.
Jacobsen serves as an Enforcement, Investigations and Analysis Officer (EIAO) in the Des Moines district. As an EIAO, Jacobsen’s work is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to fulfilling our agency’s public health mission.
EIAOs have a diverse and complex part to play in the FSIS mission. They review the design of HACCP plans, conduct investigations, make sure that recalls have been conducted successfully and effectively and perform comprehensive food safety assessments. This job requires intense attention to detail, as well as an ability to quickly size up new situations and figure out what, if anything, is out of place.
“You have to be able to see the nuances of each plant that you visit— from the smallest processing plants to the largest slaughter facilities—and understand how or why they do things differently—in order to know what is out of place and how to fix it,” says Jacobsen.
“Because each plant is so different from the next, it is very important for me to understand all the mechanics of the equipment. This is the challenge for all EIAOs, a challenge to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Since I am not a trained engineer, I have worked hard to gain a better understanding of them.”
Jacobsen’s commitment to learning, growing and understanding the diverse world of evolving risks has made him a key voice in our agency’s efforts to modernize our food safety mission.
In 2012, Jeff was asked to join FSIS’ Strategic Performance Working Group (SPWG), a group established to bring together bright minds from across the agency to make new progress in tackling foodborne illness. This group began their work by evaluating new ways to combat Salmonella and has already made great progress; in fact, FSIS is aiming to implement some of the ideas put forward by this group before the end of the year.
As a part of this diverse group, Jacobsen was able to share what he has learned as an EIAO, someone who has boots on the front line of food safety every day. He was able to provide key insight on sanitary dressing as part of process control. During the working group process, he explained what happens in the field and the different techniques that he has seen that industry is using to address foodborne hazards. With his contributions, this group has been able to propose new and different strategies to address Salmonella nationwide.
“I am thinking differently by thinking outside of the box. I enjoy being part of something that is beyond myself. I am learning, and that is what this job is all about,” says the veteran EIAO.
Jacobsen takes great pride in analyzing new ways to prevent pathogens, like Salmonella, from entering the food supply. He says he owes much of his commitment and work ethic to his mentors here within the agency, who taught him how to conduct thorough investigations and put protecting public health first.
Ask Jacobsen what brings him to work for FSIS every day, and the answer is easy: he has a desire to constantly learn and share knowledge so that everyone can learn from and capitalize on our shared experience defending public health. It is this exchange of knowledge and enthusiasm for improvement that helps Jeff be a part of our agency’s work to modernize and equip ourselves for the next generation of public health work.