Editor’s note: Originally posted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a Constituent Update, this message from Al Almanza comes as he prepares for his last day on the job at the agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. He is set to retire July 31.

After 39 years with FSIS, I am retiring from public service. Regardless of my title or position — be it food inspector in a small slaughter plant in Dalhart, TX, where I began my FSIS career in 1978 or in my current position as Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety and FSIS Administrator — I have been driven by the Agency’s mission to protect public health by preventing foodborne illness. It is a mission that I feel strongly is among the government’s most critical, and I am honored to have been a part of it for almost four decades.

Earlier this month, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, left, thanked Al Almanza for his 39 years of service at the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and congratulated him on his upcoming retirement. Photo courtesy of USDA

As I look back over my ten years leading the Agency, I am proud of the accomplishments we have made together as FSIS has continually looked for ways to improve food safety and become more efficient.

Highlights for me have been using a science-based approach to modernize the poultry slaughter inspection system, implementing the Public Health Information System (PHIS), reducing listeriosis and E. coli O157:H7 illnesses from FSIS-regulated products and adding six other dangerous strains of E. coli to the zero-tolerance list, and implementing performance standards for Campylobacter and Salmonella.

FSIS has also strengthened its collaboration with partner agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leveraging our expertise and actions to better protect public health.

I want to emphasize that we have made this progress together. I often talk of FSIS being one team, with one purpose, but the food safety team extends beyond that to include all of our stakeholders.

Industry frequently goes above and beyond the regulatory requirements to improve the safety of the food supply; too often those efforts are not recognized. And the consumer groups push us to make sure we are doing all we can to protect public health; those efforts have helped make sure we are moving in the right direction.

It has been a pleasure partnering with all of you to protect the public’s health. I leave confident in the knowledge that, between dedicated FSIS employees and the dedication of our stakeholders and partner agencies, the safety of the supply of meat, poultry and egg products is in good hands. Thank you all!

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