Christina Hastings, a relief consumer safety inspector (CSI) in the Raleigh district, exemplifies all of FSIS’ core values — Accountable, Collaborative, Empowered and Solutions-Oriented, and she puts them into practice each day she performs her duties. Hastings explains that CSIs must possess and practice all the values because they are the standards that the Agency sets for all its employees.
Hastings is acutely aware that, as an inspector in the field, she is the “face” of the Agency, especially when she must protect the nation’s food supply. “I am accountable to the millions of strangers that I will never meet but must make sure they stay safe when consuming FSIS-regulated products. Verifying that establishments’ meat and poultry Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans and labeling requirements comply with regulatory statutes is key.”
She communicates with her colleagues as they determine the best way to explain and clarify regulatory requirements to plant management, especially when barriers, like different languages, exist. “I may be the only inspector physically assigned at an establishment, but my fellow inspectors are only a phone call or a text away. I just received some good advice a few weeks ago from another inspector on a great way to explain the three parts of HACCP verification — which consist of identifying potential hazards; implementing control measures at specific points in the process; and monitoring and verifying that the control measures are working as intended — to the owner at a new very small plant.” This collaboration among peers is critical to Hastings in her role as a CSI.
Hastings often must determine whether or not something is a non-compliance. “My supervisor supports my decisions. However, if I’m off-base on something, he will explain things to me in a way that I don’t feel belittled or embarrassed. I have always felt that way with all my supervisors in FSIS. I have the freedom to ask questions and to ask, ‘But why?’ I don’t always agree with the answers I receive, but just the freedom to ask the question is so very empowering.”
On a daily basis, Hastings finds herself trying to find solutions to prevent potential future problems. She describes her solutions-oriented approach as, “More than once I’ve made recommendations about combating condensation in coolers to plant managers. I would say, ‘I’m not sure if this will work here, but here are some things I’ve seen at other establishments that have dealt with condensation in coolers.’ It is still up to the plant to come up with a solution that works for their situation, but sometimes I may be able to mention an idea they haven’t thought of yet,” she said.
Hastings will celebrate 18 years with FSIS in July 2019, and says she can’t think of another profession she would have chosen besides being an inspector at FSIS.
“My job is satisfying, fulfilling and mentally stimulating. I enjoy breaking down a HACCP plan or using the GAD process — Gather the facts and any previous supporting documentation, Assess and verify all information, and Define the associations between the noncompliance and specific relevant regulations and other documentation — as a foundation when drafting accurate and reliable reports, to determine if there is a food safety hazard or other non-compliance. And, it is especially rewarding to be able to work in partnership with the establishments to achieve food safety and to know that my efforts made a difference,” she said.
Hastings recalls a time many years ago that had a lasting impact on food safety. “Nine years ago, I noticed that a 180-degree hot water utensil sanitizer was needed closer to plant workers in a cutting area. I brought up my concerns with plant management stating that I hadn’t observed employees using contaminated knives, but it would only be a matter of time before one of them did not walk all the way across the room to use the sanitizer. Plant management must have thought it was a good idea that would likely prevent a potential hazard because they installed another sanitizer sink closer in proximity to the workers. I am amazed that my observation still affects food safety in a plant that I haven’t stepped foot in almost a decade.”
Hastings, in need of a job that paid enough money to cover the rent and offered health benefits for her growing family reluctantly applied for a job in a turkey plant on the evisceration line, drawing turkey viscera out by hand. She recalls how that job led her to FSIS.
“It was not a glamorous job, but my coworkers were great, and it turned out that I actually loved the company and what I was doing,” Hastings said. “I was promoted to the quality assurance department and had daily interactions with the FSIS consumer safety inspector who was assigned to our establishment. We would chat every day and the inspector encouraged me to apply to FSIS because ‘It would be great career.’” She’s glad she did.
Hastings earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Food Science and Industry from Kansas State University in 2018 — a notable milestone after attending college part-time for years.
Hastings, a St. Charles, Missouri native, currently resides in Leesburg, Virginia. She has two adult children, 10 grandchildren, and is engaged to Eilana, her partner of eight years.
Hastings loves to hike, bike, play foosball and binge-watch scary, creepy TV shows on a cold Sunday afternoon. One of her favorites is AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” She is also an avid marathoner and was part of Team FSIS, which consists of Agency employees who compete in various marathons around the country.
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