The mega-meat company JBS, racked recently by involvement in Brazil’s development bank and inspection bribery scandals that cost its top shareholders billions, is turning to a freshly retired U.S. food safety official to regain public confidence.
Alfred “Al” Almanza, who Monday retired as USDA’s top food safety official, has moved over to the private sector as global head of food safety and quality assurance for JBS. Banning beef exports to the U.S. from Brazil, where JBS is the largest trader, were among Almanza’s last important decisions as administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
In his new role, Almanza will be part of the JBS global leadership team, reporting directly to JBS global president of operations Gilberto Tomazoni. Almanza will be based out of the JBS North American headquarters in Greeley, CO. From there he will lead JBS’s food safety efforts worldwide.
With $50 billion in annual revenues, JBS is the world’s largest animal protein producer and second largest food company on the planet. The company has 300,000 customers in more than 150 counties.
Almanza retired this week after a 39-year career with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. He served as administrator or acting administrator of FSIS for the past decade, leading the$1 billion agency’s approximately 10,000 employees.
He started out as a meat inspector at a small plant in the west Texas town of Dalhart, rising through the Dallas District, and finally to FSIS headquarters in Washington D.C. The top off of his career was serving since 2014 as both deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety and continuing to administer FSIS.
In a farewell address to his employees at USDA, Almanza said highlights of his tenure included modernizing the poultry inspection system, reducing foodborne illnesses from listeriosis and Escherichia coli and implementing stricter performance standards for campylobacter and salmonella in poultry.
“We are delighted to bring Al’s expertise and passion for food safety, quality and public health to the JBS team,” Tomazoni said in announcing Almanza’s new job.
“During his long and storied career at FSIS, Al earned the respect and admiration of his peers for his team-based management approach and his willingness to partner with both industry and public health organizations to ensure the provision of safe, quality food to consumers. JBS is privileged to have someone of Al’s caliber join our company.”
Almanza is globally recognized as an expert on development of modern inspection systems, food safety, risk management and international sanitary standards that govern market access for meat and poultry products. During his time at FSIS, he held several leadership positions, including labor management specialist, district manager of the agency’s Dallas district office, and, ultimately, administrator of FSIS.
“I am excited to start this new chapter of my career as part of the JBS Global team,” Almanza said. “It was an honor to serve the public as a member of the USDA team and help uphold its mission to protect public health for nearly four decades. I know join a team that shares my commitment to food safety and feeding the world in a safe, sustainable way. I look forward to helping JBS maintain the highest food safety levels in the industry and putting in place best-in-class benchmarks and safeguards to ensure that our products continue to exceed all industry standards.”
Sons of the JBS founder Jose Batista Sobrinho, Wesley and Joesley Batista admitted paying as much as $150 million in bribes during 25 years to Brazil’s politicians, but through leniency agreements they’ve avoided prosecution and jail time by paying, through their J&F Investimentosm, an astonishing $3.2 billion. Bribes were reportedly paid to government officials from meat inspectors to the country’s recent presidents.
The Brazilian-based JBS, officially known as JBS S.A., is the parent company of JBS USA, which is based in Northern Colorado’s cattle country. JBS USA includes production in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Australia. JBS USA has a diversified platform includes beef, pork, poultry, lamb, further processed and consumer ready protein offerings, hides, leather, variety meats and rendered products.
JBS worldwide operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay employs more than 200,000 people.
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