Faces of Food Safety: Olga Morales
Using every day as a new learning experience and believing passionately in what she does, Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) Olga Morales said she still feels the same motivation to go to work today as she did when she started with the agency as an egg products Inspector in Elizabeth, N.J., more than 2 decades ago. "I just knew I wanted to be a part of the FSIS workforce," she said.
Morales worked her way up the FSIS career ladder from inspector to her current position as Acting Program Manager for the Office of Program Evaluation, Enforcement and Review, or OPEER. OPEER reviews, assesses and evaluates FSIS programs. She works in that division's Enforcement Branch where she manages cases involving violations of FSIS' statutes and regulations. For the uninitiated, her job may seem like a technical, no-nonsense position that offers little opportunity for fun, but for Morales, she said it is her "dream job."
"I love this job. No, I really love this job," Morales said. "People can't believe it when I say that. I love what I am doing today as much as I did when I started. I have a passion to help the American people. I also have a strong belief that I am part of an excellent public servant group that is responsible for promoting and ensuring that the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe and wholesome."
Morales got her start in Elizabeth, N.J., as part of FSIS' Albany district office. Through the years, she has worked as a
Consumer Safety Inspector in Puerto Rico, where she conducted inspection activities to ensure that meat and poultry slaughter and processing establishments were in compliance with FSIS statutory and regulatory requirements. She worked as an Enforcement, Investigation and Analysis Officer performing in-depth verification and comprehensive assessments of the meat and poultry establishments' food safety systems to determine their compliance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act, Poultry Products Inspection Act and other regulatory requirements.
"I love what I am doing today as much as I did when I started. I have a passion to help the American people."
In the mid-2000s, Morales joined FSIS' headquarters staff in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a Compliance Specialist with OPEER, reviewing reports involving violations and fraudulent activities, and as a Senior Compliance Specialist, where she evaluated administrative and criminal cases associated with regulatory violations.
The road - and the ocean - that got her here
And while Morales said she worked hard to get where she is today, she said she has come a long way in both her career and her roots.
Morales was born and raised in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. She said she knew at age 5 that she wanted a career where she could help people and "make a difference" in their lives. It was in high school that her interest in science grew and she had the opportunity to do well in her favorite subjects—anything related to science.
Following high school, she studied at the InterAmerican University in Puerto Rico and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology. She began her federal career with the U.S. Department of Defense working as a health technician, followed by other health-related jobs in the private sector.
Morales views FSIS as her career destination
This job, she said, has offered a diversity of experiences. "I have been able to do so many things," Morales said. Each of those opportunities led to positions with greater responsibilities, and these challenges also "feed my addiction to work."
Morales said she is the first to admit she is a bit of a workaholic. "I hear it all the time," she gushed. "People ask me why I work so hard, and I tell them I enjoy what I am doing. I am always thinking about work and what I can do better. I am proud of my work and I want everyone to know that."