Editor’s note: This is a recent installment in a series of employee profiles being published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service, republished here with permission.

Rosalinda Salinas-Castro loves the work she does for FSIS and has devoted 18 years of her life to the Agency. As a consumer safety inspector (CSI), she knows what it takes for FSIS to protect the nation’s food supply.

Consumer Safety Inspector Rosalinda Salinas-Castro prepares a residue sampling of muscles and tissue from goat meat. Photo courtesy of USDA

“People think inspectors only stand on a slaughter line and check carcasses,” said Salinas-Castro. “I conduct postmortem inspection of animals and ensure all the steps in the slaughter process are performed to agency standards, from the stunning phase to the products being packaged and everything in between. The in-between includes: checking the processing line speed to ensure that all inspectors are able to view the carcasses, making sure that samples procured for testing are obtained properly, and making sure that the establishment is doing all it can to prevent the growth of pathogens.”

From private to public sector
Salinas-Castro, a native of Donna, Texas, worked as a quality assurance specialist in a large poultry establishment in June 2000, when she learned about the tragic murder of two FSIS employees and a state inspector in San Leandro, California. Salinas-Castro sought employment with FSIS in their honor.

“That horrible incident made me realize that I could make more of a difference in food safety and public health if I were part of FSIS,” Salinas-Castro said. “I am proud that I’m part of this Agency and know that what those inspectors were doing was part of the big picture—ensuring food is safe before it goes into commerce. I value the work that I do and it’s been a wonderful career, especially because I consider the inspectors I work with to be my friends. What could be better?”

Salinas-Castro began her career with the Agency as an on-line food inspector in a poultry plant in Selbyville, Delaware. Selbyville is almost 2,000 miles away from her hometown of Donna, but she didn’t have time to become homesick. There, she met a team of inspectors who took her under their wings, taught her what she needed to know and allowed her to shadow them until she was ready to work on her own.

“Dr. Ahmad Jilani, a supervisory public health veterinarian and an enforcement, investigation and analysis officer in the Office of Field Operations, and James Curtis, a since-retired CSI, are just two of many inspectors who gave me the opportunity to learn from them and become the food inspector I am today,” Salinas-Castro said.

“They also helped me to develop the motivation to learn. A person can be trained to do a job, but an active learner is always trying to do better and know more. That’s what they instilled in me.”

In April, after almost two decades of poultry inspection in the Raleigh district, Salinas-Castro transferred to Mission — a 20-minute ride from her hometown of Donna, Texas. The new assignment is a very small, red meat plant. She credits Frontline Supervisor Marcus Patranella and CSI Manuel Lopez with helping her acclimate to the new surroundings.

“I had never worked in red meat inspection before and from the first day, Mr. Patranella has been very helpful. This whole experience has been interesting and exciting, since I thrive for knowledge,” she said. “Mr. Lopez is also very knowledgeable about red meat inspection. He has been very patient while training me in the slaughter process. He has taught me how to inspect goats, lambs, and steers before and after slaughter. We studied the carcasses together and inspected the viscera for defects and abnormalities, like warts and tapeworms.”

A self-described by-the-book type, Salinas-Castro says she faithfully reads FSIS directives and notices and follows the guidance that is “printed in black and white.”

“You can never go wrong if it’s in the regulations,” she said.

Away from the plant
In her down time, Salinas-Castro attends auctions with her husband, Cutberto, and is most proud of two items they have won.

“My husband and I go to car and antique auctions because we value what’s old and forgotten. I won a cast iron skillet that was used in a poultry plant. My husband’s grandmother had cast iron pans dating to the early 1900s, but I always wanted my own in this era of takeout. I was so happy,” Salinas-Castro said.

“The other prized item that we won was an old, broken clock that belonged to our elderly neighbor, Mrs. Owens. My husband and I saw the sad look on Mrs. Owens’ face when she was selling the clock that her late-husband bought when they purchased their first home. Mrs. Owens couldn’t afford the hundreds of dollars to fix it, so we bought it and invested the money for the repairs. Mrs. Owens was so happy that we won the clock and fixed it because she knew we would value it. The clock chimes every hour,” she said.

Salinas-Castro and her husband are parents of four children ages 19 to 28. She enjoys spending time with her family and quiet time when they all turn off the electronics.

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