April Humbles: On the Road Again
As a Compliance Investigator with FSIS’ Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit (OIEA) Compliance Investigation Division and based in Richmond, Virginia, April Humbles works wherever she is needed in the Southeast Region. After 10 years with the Agency, most of her time is spent in her “mobile office” as she drives to places where products are found after they enter commerce, including distributors, warehouses and food banks.
Role of a Compliance Investigator
Humbles investigates violations of food safety, food defense, consumer protection and other requirements of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, the Egg Products Inspection Act and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, as well as regulations defined in Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Her responsibilities include controlling misbranded and adulterated products through detentions, civil seizures and voluntary recalls. Humbles develops cases through surveillance and investigation activities to ensure that appropriate criminal, administrative and civil sanctions are carried out according to relevant laws, regulations and directives, often partnering with other government agencies.
Compliance Investigator April Humbles checks email in her “mobile office.” Photo taken by Investigator Gretta Fuewell.
Supervisory Investigator Craig Seletzky says, “April Humbles’ liaison activities with law enforcement agencies in Virginia have increased the ability of FSIS to effectively enforce food safety laws and regulations.”
“From the minute I wake up, food safety is on my mind, and I do everything I can to do my job well and enforce the acts, laws and regulations. Beyond that, I make myself available for any special requests like helping the inspection personnel at slaughter plants when needed,” said Humbles. Some days she conducts routine surveillances, other days she may interview people affected by foodborne illnesses or meet with distributors to discuss emerging concerns in the food industry. She finds her previous work experience in industry provides valuable insight into the different types of plants, how they work and how problems can occur.
Humbles has participated in foodborne illness outbreak investigations, most recently during last year’s multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli) O103 infections linked to ground beef. She worked on the plan with the lead investigator, developed traceback and traceforward spreadsheets, worked with investigators all over the country and provided daily reports for updates to headquarters.
Humbles has also played a key role in FSIS’ homeland security mission area including preparation, detection, prevention, protection and responses to bio-security threats in the United States. She executes and implements Agency policies related to criminal investigations throughout the U.S. involving both domestic and imported meat, poultry and egg products. Most of her work involves conducting surveillances which generates her casework. She reviews records, examines how product is labeled and conducts other research. She has been involved with cases that have spanned multiple regions, states and even the entire nation, depending on the parent company where the issue originated.
FSIS Core Values
Seletzky says Humbles exemplifies FSIS core values, “April collaborates on multiple FSIS work groups and special projects to help develop new policies and procedures that would benefit FSIS employees. She has also collaborated on multiple AssuranceNet/In Commerce System user testing workgroups to improve the efficiency of the computer database that OIEA uses to document surveillance, investigation case files and enforcement actions. April is also a very solutions-oriented investigator. She never identifies a problem without offering a possible solution to the problem she has observed.”
Although most of her work is done independently, Humbles said her job also involves teamwork; “Many investigations end up having key players in other parts of the country so we have to coordinate with other team members to assess the whole picture, reviewing case files to ensure accuracy, researching regulations and the acts, and working on FSIS workgroups and special projects.”
She enjoys her job and finds her work gratifying; said Humbles, “When people are able to get together for celebrations or just sit down to enjoy a family meal without worrying whether the food will make them sick, I feel proud that I have played a big part in that.”
FSIS empowers her to be successful in protecting public health through training. When Humbles was first starting out, she participated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Investigator Advanced Training Program offered through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers and she continues to take refresher training every few years. Interview training through the Federal Bureau of Investigations and simulation training are also essential for a compliance investigator.
A graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) where she earned a bachelor’s degree in animal and poultry science with an emphasis on biotechnology, Humbles also received minors in biology and chemistry. She originally chose her major as a pre-veterinarian option. She first learned about FSIS through a consumer safety inspector (CSI) who gave lectures in a college course focusing on beef reproduction. After graduation, she worked for several large meat processing establishments and later served in many roles at federally regulated establishments, including lab technician, production supervisor and quality assurance supervisor. A CSI there encouraged her to apply for an FSIS position. Said Humbles, “These roles taught me the fundamentals, processes, implementations and historical data relating to the federal regulations and acts.”
Humbles enjoys teaching her two daughters, Shianne and Maia (ages 19 and 12, respectively), about being food safe. “Both my children have learned basic meat and poultry product labeling features, as well as safe preparation, handling and cooking procedures. They joke with me about how I am always looking for violations even when just doing everyday activities such as grocery shopping. They tell me ‘Mom, stop doing your job for a minute!’” She has also conducted some outreach at a local high school technical center; “It is wonderful to see the kids get excited about my job and what I do,” said Humbles.
When she isn’t traveling by car for her work, Humbles enjoys traveling internationally and learning about other cultures. She also likes kickboxing, reading and playing video games to give her mind a break, as well as doing all her own home and car maintenance.