I’ve been coming to this stretch of California’s coast running from San Luis Obispo to Ventura for more years than I care to remember. It’s the province of the California Environmental Health Association’s Mission Chapter.

California is a big place, and in addition to its Mission area, CEHA has six other chapters: Superior, Central, Citrus, ,Southwest, Redwood, and Northern.

When Julie Hobberlin, co-chair of CEHA’s 2019 Awards Committee, informed me that Food Safety News was going to receive the organization’s Media Award at its 58th Annual Educational Symposium, I asked the Boss if I could go pick it up in person.

I wanted to go as soon as I learned  CEHA’s annual event was being held at the Crown Plaza Beach Hotel in Ventura. I knew the way.  And anytime you can leave Denver just a few hours before the second blizzard of spring arrives and get to the mission-style Santa Barbara airport in time to watch the sunset over the Pacific, you should go.

CEHA is a sophisticated professional organization run by dedicated volunteers. It has a 30-year old “twinning arrangement” with the North West Region of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) in England. The two professional groups exchange delegates each year for educational functions

“CEHA delegates attend an educational function in England, are able to ‘shadow’ Environmental Health Officers, do some sightseeing and make friends of colleagues ‘across the pond.'”symposium documents said.

Jahniah McGill, MPH, CHES, REHS, is CEHA’s 2018-2019 president. She has the kind of energy and enthusiasm that California’s public health officers have needed during a year that has been marked with natural disasters including drought, wildfires, and mudslides.

The 3-day conference covered topics that were mostly about bad news or just another day in the office if you are a public health officer in California.

Plague and hantavirus, mosquito control, lead in drinking water, wildfire debris removal, communicable diseases in shelters, are but a few examples of the symposium topics. Challenges of climate change and modern-day slavery were also on the agenda.

All-in-all, CEHA’s world seems to have become ever more serious than it was just a few years ago when I spoke to group in Sacramento on the world’s worst outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

As for winning the Media Award, it was an honor. Food Safety News is first to win the award since 2012. Ms. McGill said our extensive coverage of the romaine lettuce-related outbreaks was among the work that caught the Awards Committee’s attention.

Romaine has been an all-hands-on-deck story for Food Safety News. We’ve chased it from the Romaine fields of Arizona and California, up to Alaska, and back again.

Offered the opportunity to say a few words to the CEHA Awards Luncheon, I said in terms of “reach” Food Safety News has done more in the last year than at any time in its ten-year history.   The addition to our staff of veteran British food safety writer Joe Whitworth has upped our game in the United Kingdom and European Union. Joe has also reported from South Africa on the victims of that country’s deadly Listeria outbreak.

No time to do all I’d like to do on this stretch of California beaches, but the opportunity to break bread with this outstanding organization was well worth the visit.

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