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.
Janice Cones, a consumer safety inspector (CSI) at Establishment 537H in Columbia, Missouri, feels a profound sense of satisfaction and achievement about her job at FSIS.
“In-plant inspectors, of which I am one, are the first and strongest lines of defense for protecting the public’s food supply,” Cones said. “What I, and so many other FSIS employees do on a daily basis is essential. I see us performing a vitally important service to the consuming public.”
Cones ensures that establishments under FSIS’ purview execute the appropriate slaughter and processing methods that have been outlined in their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans. Reviewing HACCP plans helps inspectors know when establishments have deviated in some way from controlling hazards and food safety processes. If deviations occur, Cones can step in and communicate with the establishment personnel to address issues before adulterated food reaches commerce.
“It is my job, by executing appropriate inspection methods, to ensure FSIS-regulated establishments produce a safe product,” Cones said. “If they detour from that plan, I have to determine and document noncompliance, and initiate enforcement actions, if warranted.”
In order to do her job efficiently, Cones not only has to know each plant’s HACCP plan, but she also needs to know and understand the FSIS regulations. She attributes several factors to being able to master all that her job entails.
“During my 27-year career at FSIS, I have received numerous training opportunities, both on the job and in the classroom setting, that have helped me to know what I needed to know, when I needed to know it,” Cones said.
“I also attribute my job effectiveness to my past and current supervisors and colleagues. Although I’m the only FSIS employee at the plant where I am assigned, my circuit consists of individuals who are professional, knowledgeable, dependable and ready to help when needed. They are also dedicated to achieving our agency’s goals concerning food safety.”
Cones also credits her career success to her interactions with every tier within a plant.
“Over the years, I’ve always had an open dialogue with establishment owners, managers and their staffs,” Cones said. “Communication helps to foster trust among me and the establishment personnel, especially when I have to explain legal and regulatory requirements, defend determinations on noncompliance, and offer solutions to address problems or discuss their food safety systems. I liken it to a collaborative process. We each are here for each other, and we both can win.”
Road to FSIS
In 1978, Cones was a meat cutter at a beef plant. It took her 13 years to advance to an assistant manager position in the quality control department. For the ambitious Cones, this was too slow a climb for her and for women in general at the company. And, due to the positive working relationships that she had fostered over the years with FSIS inspectors, she was told about job opportunities available at the Agency.
Undaunted by the challenge of a career change, Cones saw applying for FSIS as more of a welcome opportunity. Besides, she wanted to see what FSIS had to offer, so she passed the civil service exam and transitioned from the industry to FSIS as a food safety inspector in a Dallas, Texas, poultry plant.
While advancing in her FSIS career, Cones never lost sight of higher education. In 2011, she completed her undergraduate studies and earned a Bachelor of Universal Studies Degree with an emphasis in Biology and Business Management from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico.
Outside of Work
Cones is an avid spelunker and has explored Carlsbad Caverns in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the Onondaga Cave in Leasburg, Missouri, and several others in North Dakota.
The Fort Sumner, New Mexico, native now calls Sedalia, Missouri, home. Her college-aged twin daughters, Heather and Drew, have separate birthdays despite being twins, because one was born before midnight and the other after. Cones also shares her life with Sweetie, a rescued German shepherd mix.
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