Cedric Dial, a consumer safety inspector in the Dallas District, has been a USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service civil servant for 18 years, while also serving as an U.S. Army Reservist for 17 years. He is passionate about making a difference in people’s lives in both of his chosen professions.
“I love being a CSI (consumer safety inspector) and being a part of the military, because I protect the country in both jobs,” Dial said.
As a CSI, Dial said he feels accomplished when serious issues are handled properly, thus ensuring the safety of individuals who may consume that particular product. He further noted that as a CSI, he provides a service to the establishment by ensuring they are in compliance with FSIS food safety standards.
As a reservist, he teaches soldiers how to drive mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.
“Those who are in my military purview also learn about food safety, especially during field trainings when we have to rely on alternative methods of washing hands when the convenience of indoor plumbing isn’t available,” Dial said.
Dial’s daily CSI duties consist of performing antemortem inspections of poultry, which is the inspection of live birds and other animals prior to being slaughtered; monitoring the establishment’s operational sanitation procedures to ensure sanitary handling and dressing processes are in accordance with regulations; and ensuring the establishment’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan meets regulatory requirements.
Fast food paved his way
Dial was familiar with sanitation procedures and HACCP plans well before joining FSIS. In fact, he said the job where he learned about these procedures inspired him to explore employment opportunities in the agency.
“I worked as a cook at McDonald’s in Farmerville, LA, for five years. Within five months of starting that job, I was promoted to assistant manager, and I credit that position for helping me to understand the importance of food safety and preparation,” Dial said.
“I know what I do at FSIS is very important because I’m directly responsible for ensuring the protection of the nation’s food supply. In doing so, I am an integral part of a team in which our primary concern is keeping people from getting sick or from possibly dying.”
Dial attributes his success at the agency to his FSIS colleagues and to his military career.
“My FSIS team is a big part of my success,” Dial said. “I have a sense of pride in the quality of work my team performs, but also what they provide me on a personal level. CSIs Dorinda Nygaurd, Phyllis Frazier and Timothy Overstreet are my go-to battle buddies. If I learn something new that’s going on within the agency, I share the information with them; they give me their advice. I also share what I’m thinking with them. We have a reciprocal relationship and support each other.
“Being a Sergeant First Class, an equivalent to a GS-7 civilian position, in the U.S. Army Reserve has taught me to be a leader and it transfers into my civilian life, particularly when interacting with others. The soft people skills that I’ve learned in the military have proven invaluable because they helped me improve my interpersonal and social skills and with communicating with others by learning how to read and understand others’ verbal and nonverbal body language and personality traits.”
The Monroe, LA, native also credits his mother, Mitchell McKinney, for his civilian career choice.
“Before she passed away, my mother was my inspiration to work in the USDA,” Dial said. “She was my motivation. I felt it was important to make her proud. She encouraged me to accomplish my goal of becoming an FSIS inspector. The work ethic and determination she instilled in me has sustained me throughout my career. She died a month after I received my letter of full-time employment with the agency and having an opportunity to share this accomplishment with her was immeasurable.
“I was 24 years old, and she was very proud of me and my commitment to pursuing a career that would have a positive impact on others. Knowing that I keep people from being harmed by the food they eat provides a great sense of satisfaction. I have an additional measure of satisfaction knowing that these safety measures extend not only to my family, friends and community but to individuals that I may never meet.”
Dial shares his life with his wife Rodquel and their four children. He teaches his family about “bad bugs” that can cause foodborne illness. He says it “grosses them out” but it instills in them the need to wash their hands frequently and pay close attention to safely preparing foods and to cooking temperatures.
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