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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Faces of Food Safety: Willis Wright III — Passion for Food Safety

Willis Wright III (pictured, right) and Dr. Nilda Barea

On May 3, Willis Wright III (pictured, right) and Dr. Nilda Barea, a 31-year FSIS employee and supervisory veterinary medical officer, participated in Bartlett Elementary School’s Annual Career Day and Fair in Bartlett, Tennessee. The duo shared information on the duties and importance of FSIS and food safety. They also discussed proper hand-washing techniques and showed the kids organs from three slaughtered farm animals. Photo courtesy of Willis Wright III, OFO.

Willis Wright III, a frontline supervisor in Memphis, Tennessee, has been passionate about protecting the nation’s food supply since he first learned about FSIS in 1986. He was at a freshmen seminar at his alma mater, Southern University and Agricultural & Mechanical College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and spoke with a USDA extension agent when “a fire was sparked!” Wright found his educational and career paths that would eventually bring him to FSIS and become part of a dedicated team ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products are wholesome, safe and correctly labeled.
After that eventful day, Wright went on to earn an animal science degree and applied unsuccessfully for a position at FSIS. But that didn’t stop him. In an effort to acquire the specialized skills he knew would be valuable when he was able to come on board at FSIS, he did the next best thing and obtained a position in industry to strengthen his food safety foundation.

“Public service is the highest honor, and I am proud to be able to serve our country.”

Willis Wright III

“Right after graduating from college, I got a job at a beef slaughter and processing plant in Dakota City, Nebraska,” Wright said. “Till this day, I am thankful for the time I spent there because I was able to find a job in my field, train in all areas of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points and learn about Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures and the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). I brought their high standards and the bridge for FSIS to effectively communicate with the industry and back again.”

His Role in the Agency

In his role as a frontline supervisor, Wright continues using his knowledge of FMIA, the other acts — Poultry Products Inspection Act, Egg Products Inspection Act and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act — and the Agencyʼs regulatory authority to do his job effectively. He relies on these resources to lead a team of 42 employees consisting of food inspectors, consumer safety inspectors and supervisory public health veterinarians (SPHV). This is a team that Wright says, “is indispensable to fulfilling the Agency’s mission.”

“I, along with the SPHVs and inspection program personnel, ensure that we adhere to the Agency’s mission, vision and core values, which I call the foundation to support the Agency’s three strategic goals: 1. Prevent Foodborne Illness and Protect Public Health; 2. Modernize Inspection Systems, Policies, and the Use of Scientific Approaches; and 3. Achieve Operational Excellence,” said Wright.

Educating the Next Generation

Wright’s passion for food safety also extends to teaching the next generation about FSIS and how food safety affects them. He and other Memphis circuit employees visit fairs and schools to educate young people with show-and-tell demonstrations of the slaughter process on a virtual reality viewer and by allowing them to touch actual organs. Wright says, “I’ve found that kids gain a better understanding of FSIS’ mission and the slaughter process if they are able to see the process and feel animal viscera.”

Wright is a man of few words, but he is proud of the 14 years he’s been with FSIS, saying, “Public service is the highest honor, and I am proud to be able to serve our country. I feel what I do is valuable and an essential part of FSIS’ mission.”

 

Last Modified Aug 22, 2019