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1. What inspired you to get into your profession?
When I was in college, during breaks I was performing asbestos abatement for a private company. I got paid a lot of money however it was grueling work. We would be toiling in our PPE sweating in 100+heat, in tight and dark spaces, using jackhammers, etc. Once in a while a guy would show up, spend maybe 5 minutes in the danger
zone, collect some samples and get back out. I noticed he wore a suit and drove a new BMW. I asked him what he did and he replied he was an industrial hygienist. So this guy has a cushy job making way more money than me. That’s when I decided to go into this field. However, I made the mistake of working for the government. Instead of a BMW I have a 2003 Pathfinder with almost 200k miles.The saying is “You won’t get rich working in government but you will get a chance to make a positive difference”.
2. In laymans terms what is the nature of your work?
In short, you go to the doctor if you are sick. It is my job to make it so you don’t need to see the doctor. A longer description is; An Environmental Health Program (EHP) is to protect the welfare of the public that the program serves. An EHP helps to protect through a variety of programs that promote healthy environmental conditions and reduce risks associated with communicable disease. The typical duties of an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) include food service inspections, well and septic inspections, child care center inspections, public pool and spa inspections, tanning establishment inspections, massage therapy inspections, plan review of food service facilities, nuisance investigations, and unsanitary living conditions inspections. While these are the main roles of the EHO, there are many other items that the EHO responds to. For example, questions and complaints regarding radon, lead, mold, tobacco smoke, pest control, West Nile virus, and other emerging health issues.
3. The toughest and most rewarding parts of your work?
In this line of work we deal with the public a lot. Good customer service is first and foremost a job requirement. I love working together with the facility owners helping people understand the science behind what we do. I enjoy teaching and coaching and seeing the look of comprehension when explaining a difficult concept. I like knowing that what I do makes a difference even if it is often not seen by the public. The toughest part is having to resort to citations to get compliance with laws. It feels like I have failed to get the facility to understand the importance of the laws. I feel like a disappointed father because I feel that these are “my” facilities and they should know better.
4. Best and worst story you can share with us?
Best - We made the switch to the FDA Model Food Code a couple years ago ahead of next year’s deadline. It involved a tremendous amount of time and effort to get our facilities into compliance. We were able to see the process work the way it is intended when we had a food borne illness complaint come in. We performed a traceback investigation at the facility in question and were able to determine with significant certainty that they were probably not the source of the illness. If the facility had not converted to the new Code there would not have been the amount of evidence necessary to draw such a conclusion.
Worst – We had received a complaint about a restaurant that served crispy chicken. When our inspector showed up they saw a stray dog running away with what looked like something in its mouth. During the inspection the inspector noticed the door to the back of the facility was wide open. Sure enough there were about 20 whole raw chickens on a cart just sitting in an alley, marinating. There were flies everywhere because of the filthy dumpsters located nearby. When we asked the owner why they did it this way, they said that was how they did it at home. It’s one thing to get your family sick, a whole other thing to affect the public..
5. What is your training, and affiliations ?
Member of the National Environmental Health Association and President of the Illinois affiliate. https://ieha.
B.S in Public Health from Northern Illinois University, member of the State Board of Health, past member of the McHenry County Board of Health. Licensed Environmental Health Practitioner, Registered Sanitarian, Certified Professional – Food Safety, et al.
6. Can you tell us about your jurisdiction ?
We have about 270 facilities we inspect.
7. What are the challenges in your jurisdiction?
In many jurisdictions the “mom and pop” facilities have a harder time affording the citations. If the owner needs money to the fix an issue in the first place, writing a ticket for $500 isn’t going to help the situation. Citations are a last resort and typically because the owner is taking no action at all.
8. How have you used Iwaspoisoned.com as part of your workflow?
As part of my career I try to keep up with new ideas and technologies. We had noticed that complaints of food facilities would end up on Yelp and rarely would be reported to us. Yelp does not forward illness complaints in our jurisdiction to our office. That is a service that Iwaspoisoned.com provides. This allows us to go out and confirm or deny if there is an issue. Public health is to protect and stop outbreaks from occurring. Iwaspoisoned.com assists us in doing that.
9. Has Iwaspoisoned.com been helpful?
If we can stop an outbreak from getting worse there is tremendous value in that.
10. What are the challenges, and what can consumers do to help ?
One challenge is when the consumer does not interact with us after the report is made. We always try to follow up, but if we receive no response from the complainant it is difficult to make progress. We urge consumers, if you have a complaint and we try to contact you, please respond. Creating an initial report is important, but it is just the start, the follow up is critical to making progress.
11. To other tech forward states & counties interested in integrating Iwaspoisoned.com into their process - how would you recommend they do that?
Assign a person or group to be responsible for the intake of complaints. Typically a supervisor or manager that has email access 24 hours a day. You don’t want all inspectors to respond to a complaint and you want only one voice in your responses back to complainants to avoid confusion.
12. What other technology have you integrated to help with your work?
When Illinois passed legislation to adopt the FDA Code we realized that we would either have to order all new inspection forms or we could switch to digital. When we did a search in Google Play and the Apple App Store we couldn’t find any health inspection apps so we created one. We worked for months with a company called Snappii to design it and troubleshoot it. While it is not perfect, it is designed to get an inspector out in the field asap. As part of the design of the app we negotiated with Snappii to allow the basic version to be offered for free. Look up FDA Health Inspection or Food Safety Inspection by Snappii https://www.snappii.
Recent Interesting Reports
February 13, 2021 1:00 PM
“Thin Mints I ate a good portion of a sleeve of Girl Scout thin mints last night, got intense and unrelenting stomach pains, fell asleep on the bathroom floor, woke up with pains still, and then after awhile had diarrhea and the pain mostly went away but persisted a bit
March 6, 2021 5:06 AM
“Had the fried nuggets and within 15/20 mins had stomach cramps and severe diarrhea. ”
February 11, 2021 9:22 PM
“supreme pizza Just me i was only one eating it, 3 hrs after eating yesterday got really bad diarreah and ate same thing for lunch today 3 and a half hrs later i have diarreah and nausea tonight Today and yesterday ”
February 18, 2021 5:57 PM
“The FSA announced the recall of Chick Inn 32 Jumbo Chicken Nuggets by Vestey Foods because Salmonella has been found in the product. The product is sold at Heron Foods, B&M, and B&M Express only.
FSA advises consumers not to eat the recalled products. Instead, return it to the store from where it... was bought for a full refund.
- Chick Inn 32 Jumbo Chicken Nuggets (650g). Lot number: 31453058. Batch code: 31453058. Best before: end of January 2022.
The products listed above might be contaminated with salmonella. Symptoms caused by salmonella usually include fever, diarrhoea, and abdominal cramps.
Check the full recall details on the FSA website food.gov.uk ”
February 27, 2021 9:54 AM
“I ordered a pizza last night, February 26, 2021, well two. One for myself to have to eat through the weekend and the other for my grandkids. I ate two slices and maybe 30 minutes or so later I got nauseous and I had to go to the bathroom and threw up everything. About an hour later I got just one... small slice trying to put something on my stomach and soon after I threw that up as well. My granddaughter had a couple of bites of the other pizza and she wakes me up because she had gotten sick and had diarrhea and nauseous, she’s nine years old. This is really upsetting and I just feel like someone did something to those pizzas. I paid $40.00 including a $8.00 tip. My daughter ordered the pizza and I PayPal her so it was ordered from her account. But I have record of it all.
My granddaughter had a couple of bites of the other pizza. First she told me her stomach hurt so I gave her some Children’s Soothe for nausea and she wakes me up because she had gotten sick and had diarrhea and nauseous, she’s nine years old. This is really upsetting and I just feel like someone did something to those pizzas. I paid $40.00 including a $8.00 tip. My daughter ordered the pizza and I PayPal her so it was ordered from her account. But I have record of it all. It was only myself and my granddaughter that got sick but we both ate two different pizzas. My daughter did order her a pizza but so far she has not complained. This happened last night for me around maybe 9:30pm to 10:00pm? For me it was about 20 minutes or so after the pizza was delivered. For my granddaughter it was later because she didn’t get hers until later. Actually she only had a small bite. That pizza only had that portion eaten. My pizza has three slices missing. ”
March 1, 2021 3:11 PM
“I had a vanilla milkshake and quarter pounder Sat about 9 pm. Around 11 pm, I was nauseous and about an hour lated started projectile vomiting. I vomited every 30 minutes for 14 hours until I had to go to the ER to get 2 liters of fluids plus IV nausea medication. I was still dehydrated when I left... but allowed me to leave as long as I promised to drink fluids. I still cant drink pedialyte because it makes me vomit. It is now Monday at 2 pm. Never will I eat there again. They said it was a severe case of food poisoning. I can tell you this. I almost died of a rare strand of African ecoli in 2014 in Germany, this was almost as bad as that. ”
February 17, 2021 4:26 PM
“Went there last night and they said they only had “fried” foods. I ordered chicken nuggets and the McChicken. Within 4-6 hours I was violently vomiting. It’s been 15 hours or so since and I’ve gotten sick 3-4 more times, violently, uncontrollably sick. ”
February 8, 2021 7:26 PM
“I brought meat from supermarket 1 person I made a sandwich next thing hours letter I was in so much pain in vomiting it was bad the next day I went too the doctors they came me pills I took meat back too them she offered me 10 dollars in I’m very upset ”
February 8, 2021 8:00 PM
“Company name: Ocean Beauty Seafoods LLC
Brand name: Publix
Product recalled: Parmesan-Crusted Wild Alaskan Salmon Fillets
Reason of the recall: Undeclared Soy
FDA Recall date: February 08, 2021
Recall details: Ocean Beauty Seafood LLC of Seattle, WA is recalling 8450 packages of Publix brand Pa... rmesan-Crusted Wild Alaskan Salmon Fillets, net wt.12oz, frozen, UPC 41415 30245 7, because it may contain undeclared soy due to mis-packaging. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to soy run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.
The affected Parmesan-Crusted Wild Alaskan Salmon Fillets retail box bears the code date “Best Before/Use By date 021122”, and the affected Teriyaki sauced product is observed through a clear inner vacuum package inside the retail box. Images of the affected and non-affected product are found below. The affected product was distributed directly to Publix Super Markets Inc distribution warehouses located in Florida and Georgia between 9/18/20 and 11/4/20. Publix further distributed product to their various retail stores in the southeast.
The problem was discovered when a consumer reported that the Teriyaki sauced salmon was found inside the retail box labeled as Parmesan-crusted salmon. Further investigation by the co-packer UniSea Cold Storage of Redmond, WA revealed that the that the loading box machine operator must have inadvertently grabbed the Parmesan-crusted salmon retail box instead of the correct boxes. We estimate only 300 units of 8450 Teriyaki sauced salmon packages were mis-packaged as Parmesan-Crusted Wild Alaskan Salmon Fillets.
There have been no adverse/allergic reactions reported to date. This recall is being made with the knowledge of, and in cooperation with, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Consumers that find any affected product as described in this recall notice are asked to either dispose of the product or return the product to the point of purchase for a refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 206-286-2566 from 7am to 4pm PST, Monday through Friday. Or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Check the full recall details on fda.gov
Source: FDA ”
February 7, 2021 12:21 PM
“I had a 5 piece chicken tender with honey mustard, tots, and a large Oreo cheesecake master blast shake. The shake tasted absolutely rotten - I thought that maybe they didn’t stir it well enough, so I stirred it thoroughly and it still tasted awful. I had MAYBE 5 sips and stopped drinking it. I left... it on the counter so I could take it back/tell them how horrid it was. A few hours later I saw it literally frothing and bubbling like sea foam! I don’t know what the heck happened, but it’s been awful. I got intense stomach cramps and diarrhea a little less than 12 hours afterwards. As a health care professional, the symptoms point me towards C. diff (clostridium) and it is highly likely that the ingredients of either the shake or the chicken tenders had not been refrigerated properly. ”