Jorge Hernandez is the chief food safety and compliance officer for Wholesome International, a restaurant company with different concepts and brands in the quick and fast casual foodservice markets in the U.S. He is responsible for food safety, quality, regulatory compliance, and sustainability for the organization. This includes developing structure and reporting lines for the staff, risk-based policies and procedures that meet or exceed FDA, USDA, and/or state regulations, as well as the department leadership and oversight over the company’s suppliers, restaurants, processing facilities, and distribution.

Previously, Hernandez worked for 12 years as the senior vice president for food safety and quality assurance at US Foods where he developed the food safety, quality, and food regulatory program for a corporation that included more than 80 distribution centers, 14 processing facilities, and over 550 private label co-packers with 1,600 facilities across all segments of the food industry.

Earlier, Jorge was the vice president of food safety and risk management at the National Restaurant Association where he led the development of the award-winning ServSafe food safety training program for the restaurant industry.

Jorge started his career as a regulator and held positions at the state and the Winnebago County health departments in Illinois, U.S. He has earned degrees in biology from Rockford University, microbiology from the Centro de Estudios Medico-Biologicos in Mexico City Mexico, and languages and literature from la Universite de la Sorbonne, Paris, France.

Jorge is the board member of several industry organizations, including STOP Foodborne, the International Food Protection Institute, and GFSI, where he co-leads the development of the International Standards for the Food Warehouse and Distribution and is currently the co-chair of the GFSI U.S./Canada Group.

Hernandez has published many articles and is a recognized consultant in the areas of food safety, food safety management systems, food safety accreditation, food safety training, and food safety operations. 

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In this episode of Food Safety Matters, we speak to Jorge about:

  • The art of balancing food safety science with common sense and making decisions based on both
  • Food safety culture and how it allows employees to speak up when food safety is at risk
  • Challenges of temperature control, contamination, and traceability while distributing food
  • The importance of working with supply chain partners who are knowledgeable about food safety and take it seriously
  • Why having the most sophisticated, up-to-date technology is not always enough to ensure the safety of food
  • Challenges faced by large food transporters that are not always problematic for smaller, local, or regional operators
  • The importance of using technology properly to ensure the best data and integrity possible
  • Best practices for transporting mixed loads 
  • Why documentation and record-keeping are so important for times when technology may fail
  • His thoughts on why food distribution is not a huge target for intentional contamination
  • How the introduction of FSMA has helped make it safer to transport both raw product and ready-to-eat product on the same truck without cross-contamination issues
  • Common transportation issues and the use of trucks that are not fit to safely transport food
  • Working with GFSI to create international standards for transportation and warehousing
  • How GFSI standards compare to the FSMA Sanitary Transportation rule
  • Positive trends he sees with technology, big data, analytics, epidemiology, DNA, traceability, blockchain, and more.

Related Content:
FSMA's Final Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food 
The Supply Chain and Food Safety Culture: Distribution (June/July 2017)
The State of Food Safety: Regulation, Collaboration and the Advancement of a Globally Safe Food Supply (August/September 2012)
Foodservice Distribution: Maintaining the Cold Chain (August/September 2009)

News Mentioned in This Episode
South African Poultry Plant Closes Amid Deadly Listeria Outbreak Investigation
A Spoor-Marler Team Plans Class Action for South African Listeria Victims
Family of 5-Year-Old Awarded $6.5 Million in Salmonella Chicken Case

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