Restaurant Report – Late September 2014

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The Brazos County Health Department conducts weekly inspections of all local restaurants and food service establishments. The Texas A&M Center for Food Safety is proud to bring you all those reports in one convenient location each and every month.

By law, these inspection reports are must be posted in the front area of the establishment in plain sight. Typically these forms are yellow and inside a plastic case. Feel free to ask to view the report if you would like.

If you have any questions, please send us an email and we would be glad to help you make sense of it all.

Brazos County Restaurant Report – 9/25
Brazos County Restaurant Report – 9/18


 

DISCLAIMER: The Restaurant Report is brought to you as a public service and are the property of the Brazos County Health Department. These inspections are not conducted by Texas A&M Center for Food Safety, Texas A&M University or Texas A&M Agrilife. 

What is Collaboration?

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What is Collaboration?
By Douglas Powell | Sept. 17, 2014

Me and Chapman have been working together and writing for 15 years.

We ain’t the Beatles but we’ve had our moments. Lots of research, coaching girls’ hockey together, and he once bailed me out of jail.

He would be the calm and steady Paul (although he’d rather be George) to my erratic John.

Me and Amy have been writing and working together for nine years.

She also is the steady Paul. And there’s a couple of others that I repeatedly work with, who balance the yin-and-yang.

But what is it that makes a collaboration?

As Joshua Wolf Shenk wrote in The Atlantic earlier this year, “Paul was the diplomat; John was the agitator. Paul was soft-spoken and almost unfailingly polite; John could be a right loudmouth and quite rude.

“The ancient Greeks gave form to these two sides of human nature in Apollo, who stood for the rational and the self-disciplined, and Dionysus, who represented the spontaneous and the emotional.”

I keep reading how food safety is a collaborative effort, but, as Margaret Mead wrote, “Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All societal movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals.”

Food safety collaboration is over-rated, especially if it’s driven by a top-down organization.

Individuals create and innovate, and bring others to the table.

My first university job was at an Ontario Center of Excellence (that’s in Canada) in 1990, involving four universities big in the information technology biz.

After a couple of years of handing out money – and ridiculous amounts of process – a leading artificial intelligence researcher told me, why don’t you just give
us researchers an extra $10,000 a year, and get rid of the BS.

He had a point.

So much so that I quit my cushy job shortly after that to go get a PhD and throw my own ideas into the world – not some government-mandated spin.

But what I observed in those couple of years was that individuals made connections, and produced great stuff. And that committees generally produced crap.

That continued on into 15 years of academia, where I observed good people trying to contort themselves for funding agencies.

Several department chairs have said I didn’t play well with others, yet my collaborative publication record is strong; I just have a low tolerance for BS.

And when people throw around phrases like global teamwork for a safer food supply, or international regulatory harmonization, I roll my eyes and wonder, what is this money being spent on? What is the real goal?

I love working with the people I work with, and we share ideas, but there’s a lot more people I won’t work with.

Maybe it’s an age thing.

The steady and focused need someone to take them out of their comfort zone, as much as the erratic need a steadying support.

That is the challenge of any collaboration, bringing those elements together, and being better than the individual.

 

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University. 

 

Pay Attention: Be the Goalie

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Pay Attention: Be the goalie
By Douglas Powell | Aug 5, 2014

I have a drill I do weekly with the goalies at hockey practice.

I’ll have three of them, each in front of a net, and I tell them, pay attention, you never know where I’m going to shoot the puck (neither do I, but I’m a goalie). Their job is to know where the puck is and predict where it’s going to be so they can better position themselves. I can look one way but shoot another. The goalie is the last line of defense when others mess up.

Much of food safety is, pay attention – especially to the checks that are supposed to reduce risk.

In 2009, the operator of a yakiniku barbecue restaurant chain linked to four deaths and 70 illnesses from E. coli O111 in raw beef in Japan admitted it had not tested raw meat served at its outlets for bacteria, as required by the health ministry.

“We’d never had a positive result [from a bacteria test], not once. So we assumed our meat would always be bacteria-free.”

That’s like telling goalies, unless the shooter is staring at you, the puck will stay out of the net.

Those who study engineering failures –the BP oil well in the Gulf, the space shuttle Challenger, Bhopal – say the same thing: human behavior can mess things up.

In most cases, an attitude prevails that is, “things didn’t go bad yesterday, so the chances are, things won’t go bad today.”

And those in charge begin to ignore the safety systems.

Beginning August 2, 1998, over 80 Americans fell ill, 15 were killed, and at least six women miscarried due to listerosis. On Dec. 19, 1998, the outbreak strain was found in an open package of hot dogs partially consumed by a victim. The manufacturer of the hot dogs, Sara Lee subsidiary Bil Mar Foods, Inc., quickly issued a recall of what would become 35 million pounds of hot dogs and other packaged meats produced at the company’s only plant in Michigan. By Christmas, testing of unopened packages of hot dogs from Bil Mar detected the same genetically unique L. monocytegenes bacteria, and production at the plant was halted.

A decade later, the deaths of two Toronto nursing home residents in the summer of 2008 were attributed to listeriosis infections. These illnesses eventually prompted an August 17, 2008 advisory to consumers by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Maple Leaf Foods, Inc. to avoid serving or consuming certain brands of deli meat as the products could be contaminated with L. monocytogenes. When genetic testing determined a match between contaminated meat products and listeriosis patients, all products manufactured at a Toronto Maple Leaf Foods plant were recalled and the facility closed. An investigation by the company determined that organic material trapped deep inside the plant’s meat slicing equipment harbored L. monocytogenes, despite routine sanitization that met specifications of the equipment manufacturer. In total, 57 cases of listeriosis as well as 22 deaths were definitively connected to the consumption of the plant’s contaminated deli meats.

In both Listeria cases, the companies had data that showed an increase in Listeria-positive samples.

Pay attention.

One Canadian academic dean-thingy said the 2008 Listeria outbreak was a real eye-opener.

This person should not be in charge of anything to do with microbial food safety.

Food safety culture has been talked about a lot, but it seems so much talk and not so much data.

Food producers should truthfully market their microbial food safety programs, coupled with behavioral-based food safety systems that foster a positive food safety culture from farm-to-fork. The best producers and processors will go far beyond the lowest common denominator of government and should be rewarded in the marketplace.

They should pay attention.

Kellogg’s was taking Salmonella-contaminated peanut paste based on paperwork? Pay attention.

Nestle did.

Australians are so laid back, or so I’m told, they don’t bother to look both ways when driving. Stop signs seem optional.

So I’m always telling my younger and older kids (when they visit) you have to pay attention, because that car will not stop for you.

I coach hockey in Australia, where 5-year-olds and 10-year-olds are on the ice at the same time, and I say, pay attention. Because that 10-year-old can wipe you out.

Just like some unexpected bug.

 

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University. 

 

Press Releases before Peer Review

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PR Before Peer Review – Incomplete advice, damaging food safety reputation
By Douglas Powell | July 23, 2014

My grade 7 teacher in Canada, Mrs. Patrick, was the grammar police and instilled a strong value in getting things right (write?). My wife has now taken over that role.

I explain to students and my kids that grammar is like traffic signals: maybe it’s not efficient but it’s some rules we can agree on so that I can get to the idea of what you’re trying to express.

Science or evidence-based, has its own rules.

Whether it’s a grasp for headlines, funding or ego, press releases before publication continue, and continue to be a bad idea.

Food safety types can do better.

In Sept. 2000, I called Procter & Gamble to substantiate claims their consumer-oriented Fit Fruit and Vegetable Wash removed 99.9 per cent more residue and dirt than water alone.

The PR-thingies hooked me up with some scientists at P&G in Cincinnati, who verbally told me that sample cucumbers, tomatoes and the like were grown on the same farm in California, sprayed with chemicals that would be used in conventional production, and then harvested immediately and washed with Fit or water. The Fit removed 99.9 per cent more, or so the company claimed.

One problem. Many of the chemicals used had harvest-after dates, such as the one tomato chemical that was supposed to be applied at least 20 days before harvest.

That tidbit wasn’t revealed in the company PR accompanying Fit.

Back in 2000 I asked why the results hadn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the P&G types said it was an important advance that had to be made available to consumers as soon as possible, without the delays and messiness of peer-review.

Things haven’t changed much. What I still don’t quite comprehend is why researchers who do go to the effort of getting published in peer-reviewed journals – which isn’t easy – feel the need to share results publicly before peer review or publication. It lessens their effort.

Maybe it’s a culture thing.

Culture encompasses the shared values, morals, customary practices, inherited traditions, and prevailing habits of communities. It’s when one food service or farm or retail employee says to another, dude, wash your hands, without being told by the boss or the inspector.

Or one when PhD tells another PhD, press release before peer-review sorta sucks. And that’s the culture of science.

Or should be.

In July, 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control took some bi-partisan hits for poor tracking of dangerous pathogens, to which director Tom Frieden responded the agency had corrected the specific defects cited in previous investigations, but had not realized there was a deeper problem with the culture of safety at CDC— which he will now address.

For me it’s a hockey-coaching thing: try to do better than last week, have fun, and pay attention – before a 10-year-old runs over the 5-year-old. Keep your stick on the ice and don’t take wooden nickels.

And don’t produce food that makes people barf.

Press release before publication is always a bad idea – cold fusion?

 

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University. 

 

It’s Gotta Have Soul

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It’s Gotta Have Soul – Food Safety Rhetoric 
By Douglas Powell | June 25, 2014

It’s gotta have soul.

Communication, cross-contamination, careful: wise words, but they lack soul.

The songs that move you, the art, the words, it speaks to your soul.

My friend Russ, aged 63, from Manhattan (Kansas) died recently while scuba diving with his wife in the Bahamas. My favorite memory is watching him dance to Sympathy for the Devil during the annual fish fry he hosted every Labor Day weekend in Manhattan, Kansas for about 300 people.

The dude had soul.

Most people talking about food safety lack relevance; they lack soul, and fail to resonate.

Since 1998, American consumers have been told to FightBac, to fight the dangerous bacteria and virus and parasites found in a variety of foods, by cooking, cleaning, chilling and separating their food. Solid advice, but not compelling.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are good for us; we should eat more. Yet fresh fruits and vegetables are one of, if not the most significant source of foodborne illness today in North America. Because fresh produce is just that – fresh, and not cooked — anything that comes into contact is a possible source of contamination. Every mouthful of fresh produce is an act of faith — especially faith in the growers — because once that E. coli O157:H7 or Salmonella gets on, or inside, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts or melons, it is exceedingly difficult to remove.

In 2004, Salmonella-contaminated Roma tomatoes used in prepared sandwiches sold at Sheetz convenience stores throughout Pennsylvania sickened over 400 consumers. The FightBac people told the public that, “In all cases, the first line of defense to reduce risk of contracting foodborne illness is to cook, clean, chill and separate.”
 Consumers were being told that when they stop by a convenience store and grab a ready-made sandwich, they should take it apart, grab the tomato slice, wash it, and reassemble the sandwich. Which would have done nothing to remove the Salmonella inside the tomatoes.

Ten years later, and the FightBac message still lacks soul.

I don’t see gender. I got five daughters, and when we stopped at the McDonald’s on the way home from the beach the other weekend, the server said, do you want a boy toy or a girl toy with that happy meal, I said, I don’t care. It shoudn’t matter.

My girls play hockey.

But according to the FightBac folks, the numbers of men who report shopping and cooking are on the rise.

My father’s been doing the shopping and cooking for decades. So have I. So have a number of my brofriends.

These self-reported surveys mean nothing, are so out of touch with what I see in grocery stores, and are soulless.

The American Meat Institute proclaimed it was going to the grass roots to share the facts about meat and poultry.

“The Communicators Advocating Meat and Poultry or CAMP program is designed to harness the energies of a growing number of individuals within the industry and the field of meat science who are committed to sharing the facts about the products that the industry produces and the measures they take to ensure they are safe, wholesome, nutritious and humane.”

When a band says it’s going back to its roots, they’ve lost it.

A university student that helps with food safety news asked if such groups would be mad if I questioned their integrity.

It’s an indictment of the university system that she even asked that question, so accustomed have they become to Noam-Chomsky-esq self-censorship. Health inspectors e-mail me from around the world on a regular basis, saying they are fearful for their jobs if they speak out about what they see.

Or as Neil Young sang:

I am a lonely visitor.

I came too late to cause a stir,

Though I campaigned all my life

towards that goal.

I hardly slept the night you wept

Our secret’s safe and still well kept

Where even Richard Nixon has got soul.

Even Richard Nixon has got

Food safety requires passion and soul.

 

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University. 

 

Serving Up Food Safety

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Serving Up Food Safety – Consumer’s Faith in Restaurant Food Safety Practices
By Douglas Powell | May 21, 2014

I sleep at weird hours.

There’s a lot of things to be seen in the middle of the night.

Like all the food service trucks arriving at restaurants.

Do consumers know where their food comes from? Do restaurants?

These are the things I look for.

• When I order meat and the server asks, how would you like it done, I always say the appropriate temperature. Only once over the past decade has a server been able to say, we can do that, and pulled out a tip-sensitive digital thermometer she carried around. I returned to that establishment.

• If the restaurant or market advertizes their food as local/natural/sustainable/organic/GE free/wild seafood, etc., I ask, how is that verified? Is there any testing for microbial food safety?

• Inspection reports are only a snapshot in time, but patterns can be detected over time. Recurring problems mean, go somewhere else.

• When diners ask to take leftovers home, does the restaurant take the remains to the kitchen (bad) or bring a clamshell to the table for the diner to take care of her own food (good). And maybe some food safety stickers on that clamshell with date, time and reheating guidelines. It has been done.

• A restaurant that cares about food safety will have its own auditors and secret diners, to ensure that what management says is happening with front-line servers.

• Does management support food safety with rapid, reliable, relevant and repeated food safety information so front-line servers can at least attempt to answer basic food safety questions?

•Do staff have access to the proper tools for proper handwashing – vigorously running water, soap and paper towels?

• Are foods properly stored and thawed (this appears in restaurant inspection reports routinely)?

• Are steps taken to prevent cross-contamination (also shows up repeatedly in restaurant inspection reports)?

• What’s in that dip, has become my standard question at many Australian restaurants. Usually they use raw eggs, and the outbreaks keep piling up. I choose something else.

• Raw produce is problematic. Does that sandwich have raw sprouts? Where did that lettuce or spinach come from? Was it grown with good agricultural practices because washing ain’t going to do much?

• Are employees vaccinated against Hepatitis A. Do employees work when they are sick with norovirus (happens every week somewhere in the U.S.)?

• Does the restaurant welcome questions and support disclosure systems?

That’s a lot of questions when I just want to go out on the town with Amy.

But I ask these routinely and learn a lot. Curiosity has its benefits.

The interested public can handle more, not less, information about food safety. The best restaurants will not wait for government; they will go ahead and make their food safety practices available in a variety of media and brag about them — today.

 

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University. 

 

Restaurant Report – April 2014

It's the monthly restaurant inspection report for the Bryan/College Station area.


It's the monthly restaurant inspection report for the Bryan/College Station area.

The Brazos County Health Department conducts weekly inspections of all local restaurants and food service establishments. The Texas A&M Center for Food Safety is proud to bring you all those reports in one convenient location each and every month.

By law, these inspection reports are must be posted in the front area of the establishment in plain sight. Typically these forms are yellow and inside a plastic case. Feel free to ask to view the report if you would like.

If you have any questions, please send us an email and we would be glad to help you make sense of it all.

Brazos County Restaurant Report – April 3

Brazos County Restaurant Report – April 8

Brazos County Restaurant Report – April 10

Brazos County Restaurant Report – April 17

Brazos County Restaurant Report – April 24

Brazos County Restaurant Report – April 30

Link to previous month’s reports:
Restaurant Report – January 2014
Restaurant Report – February 2014
Restaurant Report – March 2014

Revised: May 1, 2014 – Added additional April 30th report. 

Supermarket Madness – Shopping for food safety

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Supermarket Madness – Shopping for food safety
By Douglas Powell | April 16, 2014

Shopping is a competitive sport.

Especially for groceries.

People who would think nothing of laying out $200 for a fancy-pants dinner and atmosphere, will digitally or electronically clip coupons to save $0.10.

I watch people when I go shopping for food, about every second day, and maybe they watch the creepy guy watching them.

My questions may not be the same as other cooks or parents, but I have a lot.

Should that bagged salad be re-washed? Some bags have labels and instructions, some don’t. What about the salad out in bins that came from pre-washed bags? Should it be re-washed?

Is washing strawberries or cantaloupe going to make them safer?

Where did those frozen berries come from? Am I really supposed to cook them and can’t have them in my yogurt because of a hepatitis A risk?

Are raw sprouts risky?

How long is that deli-meat good for? Is it safer at the counter or pre-packaged?

Should I use a thermometer or is piping hot a sufficient standard for cooking meat and frozen potpies? Can I tell if meat is cooked by using my tender fingertips?

Is that steak or roast beef mechanically tenderized and maybe requires a longer cook time or higher temperature?

Are those frozen chicken thingies made from raw or cooked product? Is it labeled? Is labeling an effective communication mechanism?

These are the questions I have as a food safety type and as a parent who has shopped for five daughters for a long time in multiple countries. It has guided much of our research.

I see lots of things wandering through the grocery store, but I don’t see much information about food safety.

When there is an outbreak, retailers rely on a go-to soundbite: “Food safety is our top priority.”

As a food safety type I sometimes see that, but as a consumer, I don’t.

This sets up a mental incongruity: if food safety is your top priority, shouldn’t you show me?

The other common soundbite is, “We meet all government standards.” This is the Pinto defense – so named for the cars that met government standards but had a tendency to blow up when hit from behind – and is a neon sign to shop elsewhere.

Leaving brand protection to government inspectors or auditors is a bad idea.

For a while I started saying, rather than focus on training, which is never evaluated for effectiveness, change the food safety culture at supermarkets and elsewhere, and here’s how to do that.

But now the phrase, “We have a strong food safety culture,” is routinely rolled out but rarely understood, so I’m going back to my old line: show me what you do to keep people from barfing.

Food safety information needs to be rapid, reliable, relevant and repeated. I don’t see that at grocery stores.

The days of assuming that all food at retail is safe are over. Some farmers, some companies, are better at food safety. And they should be rewarded.

Most of us just want to hang out with our kids and get some decent food – food that won’t make us barf.

 

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University. 

 

Restaurant Report – March 2014

AgriLife Logo


It's the monthly restaurant inspection report for the Bryan/College Station area.

The Brazos County Health Department conducts weekly inspections of all local restaurants and food service establishments. The Texas A&M Center for Food Safety is proud to bring you all those reports in one convenient location each and every month.

By law, these inspection reports are must be posted in the front area of the establishment in plain sight. Typically these forms are yellow and inside a plastic case. Feel free to ask to view the report if you would like.

If you have any questions, please send us an email and we would be glad to help you make sense of it all.

Brazos County Restaurant Report – March 6

Brazos County Restaurant Report – March 13

Brazos County Restaurant Report – March 20

Brazos County Restaurant Report – March 27

Link to previous month’s reports:
Restaurant Report – January 2014
Restaurant Report – February 2014

Research Spotlight: Dr. Julia A. Perez

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Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Julia A Perez

 

This past fall at the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety, we had a visiting researcher from the University of Guadalajara. Dr. Perez sat down with us for a short interview about herself and her life experiences in the food safety field.

Julia Perez: My name is Julia A. Perez  and I am an associate professor at the University of Guadalajara. I was born in Guadalajara, grew up in Octolan, a nearby city, but have lived in Guadalajara most of my life. Some of my former professors include, Dr. Eduardo Fernandez Escartin and Dr. Alejandro Castillo. I did my Ph. D. work under Dr. Elisa Cabrera as well.

CFS: Tell us how you got to where you are and what got you interested in food safety?

JP: I conducted my undergraduate studies in biology and pharmacy, and I was always sure that I liked the food safety field. When I finished my courses, I had to give one year of service back to my university and I decided I would work in the food microlaboratory with Dr. Fernandez Escartin.  It was a highly sought after place of work but I was very tenacious and finally accepted a position with the lab. For the next year, I studied sanitary microbiology, a lab specialty, and it changed my life and my mind. I immediately fell in love with the field. One of the professors at the laboratory was Dr. Castillo and he became very important in my professional formation.

After working in the food industry and with the Ministry of Health, Dr. Castillo invited me to work in his laboratory where I spent the following 16 years. While at the University, I got my master’s degree under Dr. Refugio Torres. Although I liked what I was doing in the lab, I always wanted to do research in food safety and then I had the chance to do just that under Dr. Elisa Cabrera and Dr. Norma Heredia. I obtained my Ph. D. degree at the beginning of 2013 from the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon. I worked for many years before doing Ph. D. studies, and sometimes I thought I would never be a doctor; but this is proof that it is never too late to follow your dream when you have the desire to do so.

CFS: Can you tell us about the work you have done while you have been here at Texas A&M?

JP: Last August, Dr. Cabrera informed me about the possibility of working at the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety, but at the time I did not believe her. After a few weeks Dr. Gary Acuff invited me to come to Texas and work in the lab. It sounded like a great opportunity to learn and get more research experience. It was something I could not miss and it really has been a great experience!

I am very happy with my visit to the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety. Before coming to College Station, I had never been in a BL2 food microbiology laboratory with as much new instrumentation as this one. It was a very exciting experience for me to be involved in a research project, to help run samples and learn different methodologies for detection and identification of pathogens.

I have learned how to use different types of equipment like Roka Atlas, GDS and Vitek, and how they work. I have also had the opportunity to work with samples and other bio-hazardous aerosols in the bioBUBBLE biocontainment enclosure. Working together with Dr. Acuff and Lisa Lucia has been a very valuable experience. I’ve learned so much from both of them. Finally, I had to opportunity to talk with professors from other departments to learn about their research experiences. I am very grateful to Dr. Acuff for inviting me to work at the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety.

CFS: What was it like growing up in Mexico?

JP: I grew up in a town close to Guadalajara. It was very quiet and life was nice, but at the same time it was especially hard growing up in a large family. I agree with Dr. Elisa Cabrera, growing up in Mexico is harder than [in the US], but it is also an opportunity to develop your creativity and an appreciation for what you have.

CFS: What did you enjoy most about experiencing the Texas culture?

JP: I came [to Texas] many years ago and visited the Texas A&M campus; but did not have time to be familiar with the Texas culture. This time, I had the opportunity to go to different restaurants and enjoy different types of foods. The Texas BBQ and hamburgers were a few of my favorites. I also got to meet and share time with the students in the laboratory. They were great and I had very pleasant moments with them.

The Texas A&M Center for Food Safety would like to thank Dr. Julia A. Perez for her time spent here during the Fall of 2013. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.