Faces of Food Safety: Dr. Chau Vu
Dr. Chau Vu holds many titles: FSIS Supervisory Enforcement Investigations and Analysis Officer (SEIAO), a Captain with the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), a Doctor of podiatry and pharmacy, and wife and mother.
"It's very rewarding knowing that what I do at FSIS has an impact on the majority of Americans."
Dr. Chau Vu
Dr. Vu began her career with FSIS in 2005 as a consumer safety officer. She wanted to make a difference in the lives of others while making sure that the nation's meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe, wholesome and properly labeled and packaged. "It's very rewarding knowing that what I do at FSIS has an impact on the majority of Americans," she explains.
Dr. Vu and her Alameda district team visit more than 700 USDA-regulated plants in California, Arizona and Nevada. These establishments include red meat and poultry slaughter plants, beef grinding operations and ready-to-eat and egg processing facilities. She provides leadership to 13 Enforcement Investigations and Analysis Officers (EIAOs), who conduct food safety assessments at the plants in the district, including potential recall investigations and consumer complaints. "The EIAO team, as a whole, is comprised of many individuals with numerous years of experience in evaluating food safety programs," she explains. In addition, she interacts with establishment's management regarding FSIS enforcement actions and food safety assessments.
The EIAOs conduct comprehensive reviews of the plants' food safety programs, investigate for potential food safety hazards, handle food recalls and determine the plants' overall regulatory compliance. The EIAOs also perform outreach activities to assist small and very small plants in understanding FSIS' regulations.
A typical day for Dr. Vu includes working closely with the Alameda district office staff on ongoing food safety assessments and enforcement cases. "Communication is essential between me, my staff and the district office staff because we discuss the findings at a plant and determine whether the case rises to the level of instituting enforcement action for a non-compliance," she said. "One example of plants being non-compliant with FSIS' regulations is if they do not have an adequate Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system in place." Dr. Vu credits her team for making her job more efficient. "Everyone knows the importance of their job," she states. "I love working beside a great group of individuals who always strive to do their best and make a difference."
Dr. Vu, her staff, colleagues and Alameda district personnel embody USDA's motto of One Team, One Purpose. "I feel that my co-workers, the in-plant inspection team and I are making a difference to public health each day," she said. "The EIAO team has worked tirelessly to accomplish the goal of completing a food safety assessment at all of the active plants in the Alameda district over the past 4-year cycle; our district is very proud of their great accomplishment."
In December, Dr. Vu was promoted to the rank of Captain in the USPHS. She put her pharmacology skills to use in the summer of 2010. For 6 weeks, Dr. Vu volunteered with the U.S. Navy and a group of Commissioned Corps medical providers for a humanitarian mission to Vietnam and Cambodia. While there, Dr. Vu wore her pharmacist and food safety hats. She beams, "It was a great experience! USPHS and FSIS have allowed me great opportunities to serve others, including those in other countries."
Dr. Vu states that her husband and three daughters understand the importance of her job responsibilities and fully support her commitment to keeping others safe. "My family is very proud of me," she said with a smile.
Dr. Vu (center) with her daughters (from left) Rachel, Alexandra and Elizabeth Lau. Also pictured are CPT. Lou Ann Rector, USPHS officer and FSIS liaison, and Dr. Yudhbir Sharma, Alameda district manager.