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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Faces of Food Safety: Michael Rivera, 50 Years of Federal Service

Michael RiveraAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2012 report, the average American worker stays at his or her job for 4.6 years. That means Michael Rivera is anything but average. Rivera has been protecting public health as a civil servant for 50 years and has no plans to stop. 

Inspectors Are Like the Police

“I came to FSIS in 1967—that’s 47 years for those who do not have a calculator handy—and I feel strongly about the role that I and FSIS have played in keeping people safe,” said Rivera, an OFO consumer safety inspector in the Dallas district. “I know that my presence in processing establishments is needed in order for plants to comply with FSIS’ food safety regulations. I tell people that I feel like a policeman because the police are out in the public to make sure people who are driving vehicles have their driver’s licenses and follow traffic laws. If an officer sees someone committing a violation or is not in compliance, he issues a ticket. I say that inspectors are doing the same thing. We are observing and reviewing records for compliance or, in other words, making sure that companies are doing the right things to ensure a safe food product. We take action and issue noncompliance reports when we see violations that could or do cause foodborne illness,” he continues.

Protecting Public Health for a Half Century

Prior to joining FSIS, Rivera served in the U.S. Army where he trained as a food inspector. He recalls that time very proudly and thinks of what it meant to him and to those he indirectly touched through his service. “I was a 19-year-old kid stationed in Puerto Rico for 2 1/2 half years, responsible for soldiers and their families,” Rivera recalled. “In retrospect, I was responsible for safeguarding our nation. Sick soldiers can’t fight!”

"The consumer relies on FSIS for food safety, and I am proud to be a part of those efforts."

Michael Rivera

Rivera said he learned about FSIS and its job opportunities from a sergeant who worked with FSIS’ meat inspectors back on the U.S. mainland. “He would tell every young soldier going back home to apply with FSIS for employment,” he said. “Five years later, Rivera was reading a magazine and noticed an ad for U.S. government employment. One of the jobs listed was for a meat inspector. “I took the Civil Service Exam (a test required at the time to obtain federal employment) and had to take and pass courses in the proper and safe handling of red meats. The rest is history,” he said.

Receiving the right type of training has always been essential for Rivera’s high job performance. “I’ve been a successful inspector because of all the training that FSIS has provided me over the years,” he said. “When I first came into the agency, I received training on slaughtering and processing of red meats. But over the years as regulations changed, I had training in SSOPs, HACCP, food processing and even on how to use a computer,” he said.

Each One, Teach One

Rivera believes being mentored early in his career by a more seasoned inspector led to his job success and longevity. Michael Rivera“When I first started at FSIS, I was told that I wasn’t progressing fast enough and was going to be let go if I didn’t improve,” he explained. “I was partnered with an experienced inspector who took me under his wing. He taught me the art of keeping a sharp knife and understanding and documenting FSIS’ food safety regulations.”

Rivera has been mentor and coach to many new field employees. “I train the new employees in the best practices I’ve learned over the years because this job has been extremely rewarding to me,” he added. “I want them to have a long, successful career in FSIS as well,” he said.

“I have gotten and still get a lot of satisfaction knowing that in performing my duties, I am protecting consumers’ health,” Rivera concluded. “The consumer relies on FSIS for food safety, and I am proud to be a part of those efforts.”

The Houston native has been married to his wife Stella for 49 years and has 4 children.

Last Modified Oct 17, 2016