Robert Price: Committed to Food Safety
August 4, 2022
“The job has been great. It’s a combination of two things I love the most: hands-on time in the lab and involvement with the business side of things,” says Robert Price, new Food Safety Manager at the North Carolina Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL).
Price joined the team in mid-May, bringing with him experience as a Biological Science Laboratory Technician at USDA-ARS and, most recently, as Food Safety & Quality Assurance Specialist at Dole Fresh Vegetables.
In his role as Food Safety Manager, Price is responsible for ensuring that NCFIL is meeting all aspects of food safety and compliance. This includes providing up-to-date training for employees and making sure all operating guidelines fall within current FDA Food Safety Modernization Act requirements.
Food Safety is His Top Priority
Price’s interest in food science, particularly food safety, began in the 5th grade. He suffered from a severe E. coli infection requiring nearly two years to fully recover. That experience, paired with a suggestion from his home economics teacher in middle school, led him down this career path.
“My teacher noticed I was staying after class, wiping things down and making sure every utensil was clean. I told her I didn’t want anyone in the class to get sick. She said to look into food science when I went to college,” Price recalls. “Neither my mom nor I knew what it was, but we got college pamphlets for schools with food science programs!”
He went on to earn BS and MS degrees in Food Science from NC State. “My work with NC State was related to food safety and pathogenic bacteria, focusing on food safety aspects and production. I did my Master’s research on food safety in produce, which has been a good foundation for potential bacterial concerns with plant-based foods at NCFIL,” Price explains.
Since starting at NCFIL, he has enjoyed the checks and balances system that is in place to ensure everyone is doing things the right way. The Clean-Trace Hygiene Monitoring system involves environmental swabbing of surfaces in the kitchen to make sure cleaning and sanitation techniques meet established standards. “If a swab comes back and fails, I can see who last used a piece of equipment and review the cleaning process with them.”
Assisting Clients Each Step of the Way
While a majority of his time is focused on NCFIL, Price also collaborates with clients to meet food safety needs on an as-needed basis: “I direct clients to the appropriate guidelines to follow depending on the commodity and product. I help with regulatory issues and labeling, and advise them on what to do with products to make sure they are safe, from supply chain procurement to finished product.”
The partnership with clients is truly a partnership. “Clients who come to NCFIL are hands-on with their product and get one-on-one time with us,” says Price. “They don’t just receive a document; we actually go through the process together. We let them know where they stand as far as food safety and then we figure things out together. I really enjoy that collaboration.”
Throughout his career, Price has met people with great ideas; however, without the knowledge of how to scale up, the product didn’t go further than the prototype created in their kitchen. “For me, it’s being able to help so many new companies get started and realize their ideas. NCFIL understands what needs to be done and helps with their dreams.”
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