CSI Sherri Rodriguez: Thankful for FSIS and Friends
By Felicia Thompson, OPACE
In the three short years Consumer Safety Inspector (CSI) Sherri Rodriguez has been with FSIS, she has become a skilled inspector. Rodriguez joined the Agency as a food inspector in a large beef plant in Dodge City, Kansas, and has carried that knowledge with her to her current assignment at Establishment M-7722 in Rigby, Idaho.
As a CSI, Rodriguez performs “pen to package” inspection duties. She conducts ante mortem inspection on livestock that arrive at the establishment, followed by ensuring that the animals are humanely slaughtered. Carcasses and parts are inspected and passed, trimmed and passed, or retained for a PHV disposition.
Rodriguez uses the Public Health Information System to record tasks performed each day to ensure establishments stay in compliance with regulations and produce safe food. She also reviews each establishment’s compliance documents — such as their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plans, Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures and Sanitation Performance Standards — to ensure they are following their processes.
Rodriguez knows the importance of all these steps to the people that they affect. “I’m doing what I love, and I put my work first because it’s extremely important to be the first line of defense against diseased and adulterated product from getting into commerce. My job is to ensure that food is safe to eat for millions of consumers. These products are in their stores.”
Rodriguez regularly checks in with her teammates to see if they need help. “I consider it my duty,” she said. “Besides, I love my job so much that I consider working my hobby.”
Appreciating Those in Her Path
Rodriguez said she took a chance when joining the Agency and is grateful that she did.
She went on to say, “The only regret I have today is not joining FSIS sooner. I was working in a beef plant and took a leap of faith and applied to FSIS. I’m so glad that I am able to be here and to do what I love. I ensure food that I inspect is safe wherever it goes around the world, which is something that I’m going to be thankful for the rest of my life.”
She is also thankful for those who have helped her along the way and credits them for her being a competent inspector and educator.
“CSI Crystal Perez is the person I credit for where I am today,” Rodriguez said. “Crystal and I worked in the same plant—she as an FSIS employee and I as a plant employee. Crystal encouraged me to apply to the Agency because she saw my passion for work and thought FSIS would be a perfect fit.”
Once on board, Rodriguez worked side-by-side with CSI Heather Duncan, who helped and continues to help Rodriguez navigate the Agency. “Although I had food safety experience before joining FSIS, there was still a lot to learn. Heather taught me so much of what she knows.” Rodriguez said.
Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Jared Johnson was also instrumental in educating Rodriguez. She said, “Dr. Johnson taught me ante mortem inspection, about animal pathology, and how to be the best CSI I could be.”
In June 2021, Rodriguez had an opportunity to reciprocate what she received and educate two headquarters employees on what she knows about inspection methods. Executive Associate for Regulatory Operations Sherri Johnson was one of Rodriquez’s protégés and learned how to inspect livestock heads and viscera. (The shared first names were a great ice breaker.) Johnson thinks fondly of the experience.
“Last summer, I had the opportunity to work a full inspection shift at a meat slaughter establishment in Dodge City, Kansas, and I was paired with Sherri [Rodriguez] as my trainer for the day,” Sherri Johnson said. “Sherri was very patient while training me on the inspection tasks at each station. It was quickly obvious that she is a competent inspector, and I learned so much from her. Getting to perform the same tasks our inspectors like Sherri do every day was an incredibly rich experience that I look forward to repeating. Not just because it deepened my appreciation of our workforce’s dedication to the Agency’s mission, but also because it allowed me to meet and connect with her.”
In the fall, Rodriguez plans to study animal science and to take advantage of tuition reimbursement under the Agency’s Continuing Education Program.
Outside of FSIS
The Delaware, Ohio, native enjoys preparing spicy and sweet fare. She loves cooking Mexican-inspired meals and baking cinnamon rolls and carrot cakes for herself and her 22-year-old son, Edwin. Rodriguez is a big college football fan and roots for the Ohio State Buckeyes.