dark overlay
nav button USDA Logo

FSIS

Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

Actions
Loading...

Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

Actions
Loading...

Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

Actions
Loading...

Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

Actions
Loading...

Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

Actions
Loading...

Faces of Food Safety: Nakeisha L. Smith — From Chicken Coops to Consumer Safety Inspector

Nakeisha L. Smith

Nakeisha Smith performing a zero-tolerance for fecal material check on poultry. Photo by Scott Whittington, OFO.

If you knew Nakeisha L. Smith as a child, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she grew up to work with chickens. When she was 13 years old, she spent a summer in Georgetown, Mississippi, helping her great-grandmother, Amanda Hardy, clean chicken houses and take care of the hens inside. Smith is now a consumer safety inspector (CSI) at Establishment P-00247 in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, which is in the Jackson district.

As a CSI, Smith is responsible for identifying if poultry carcasses are salvageable or should be automatically condemned. She also performs various safety and verification checks to ensure the establishment complies with current FSIS regulations. These skills were built on the foundation of the hands-on, bird-by-bird inspection techniques that Smith gained when she first joined the Agency in 2006.

“It takes a special person to be able to sit on the line and make sure each inspection is as thorough as the first. It requires a lot of focus and due diligence.If you are not focused when you’re working on the line, you are putting lives at risk,” 

Nakeisha L. Smith

Onward and Upward at FSIS

In 2006, Smith joined FSIS as a part-time food inspector in Hazlehurst. Four years later, she transitioned into a full-time position at a plant in McComb, Mississippi. Feeling fortunate to return to the Hazlehurst establishment in 2012, Smith remained there under the guidance of Dr. Randall Barron, the same supervisory public health veterinarian (SPHV) that gave Smith her start as an inspector.

During her 12-year career at FSIS, Smith has established her reputation as a friendly, dependable and loyal member of the food safety team. She says those attributes play an essential role in her and the team’s success.

“It takes a special person to be able to sit on the line and make sure each inspection is as thorough as the first. It requires a lot of focus and due diligence.If you are not focused when you’re working on the line, you are putting lives at risk,” said Smith. “A line employee must also have good attendance and be able to incorporate feedback from supervisors and teammates.”

Making the ‘Best Impact’ on Food Safety

Before joining the Agency, Smith began working with her mother, Erma Hollins, at a poultry plant in Morton, Mississippi. Smith held that position for more than 13 years, which gave her a foundation in food safety while simultaneously exposing her to the vital work performed by FSIS food inspectors.
“I started thinking that a career in FSIS would be good choice,” Smith said. “I wanted to see the other side of making determinations of poultry carcasses, since I was already familiar with poultry conditions and diseases.”

To help prepare her for her future career, Smith also volunteered to become a food inspector’s ‘helper’ through the encouragement of her mentor, Irene Lee, a former FSIS food inspector. Recognizing Smith’s desire to continue working with chickens and to move up in the poultry establishment, Lee urged her to make the ‘best impact’ on food safety by becoming a part-time food inspector.

Today, Smith feels empowered to do her part to stop pathogens from spreading through the poultry she inspects. She does not take the responsibility lightly. She notes, “My role in food safety is extremely important, especially being a line inspector. Line inspectors are the first defense, which ultimately keeps people from getting sick or dying from foodborne illness. Our part in food safety plays a major role in what consumers eat worldwide.”

A Family Woman and an Inspiration to Others

Smith does not let personal challenges distract from her commitment to food safety. In 2013, her scare with short-term paralysis from the waist down led to diagnosis of an uncommon brain disorder called Chiari Malformation. This could have sidelined anyone, but not Smith.

She underwent surgery to correct the condition and made a full and speedy recovery, leaving the hospital after only three days and returning to work as quickly as possible. “I share this experience because maybe it can be an inspiration to someone,” she says. “Know that no matter what life throws at you, don’t ever give up and always be the best you can be.”

Smith was raised and currently lives in Harrisville, Mississippi with her husband, Frederick, and their 17-year-old son, Ke’Darius. In her free time, Smith enjoys spending time with her family, riding four-wheelers and horses, and taking care of their other animals. Her family is supportive of her commitment to her career and are proud of her accomplishments.

Smith’s responsibility for food safety does not end on the job, however. “I’m always talking to my family about being food safe; they always have that look like ‘here she goes again’,” she says, laughing. “The more you learn about food safety, the more it sticks, so I’m always trying to educate them. Food safety starts at home.”

 

Last Modified Jun 21, 2019