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A Daunting Task


World Health Day was earlier this month, and this year the World Heath Organization is focused on a subject close to my heart: Food Safety.

I feel that food safety is an important issue around the world because its use can prevent serious illness and even death—something that, unfortunately, my fellow missioners have witnessed first hand.

Christians have a long history of food safety practices going back to the Old Testament. The books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy gave guidelines to the Israelites about what was safe to eat and how to prepare it. Although these practices have been replaced with modern ones, they show the precedent for thinking critically about how food is prepared.

During my college years, I had the principles of food safety drilled into my head so that they became second nature to me. Food safety is the process of insuring that food is safe and wholesome for people to consume. Using methods such as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), physical, chemical and biological risks can be prevented, eliminated and reduced.

In the United States, food safety work mostly comes in the form of enforcement and monitoring of established processes that are well known and have been in place for many years. You say you’re going to do something and you prove that you did. It seemed like such common sense and full of redundancy that I often considered it “the necessary evil.”

Here in Bolivia I see it in a whole new light.

The food safety practices are often times shocking when compared to what I am used to in the States. Those common sense practices that were routine are almost nonexistent here. There is a lack of access to hand washing facilities, especially hot water. Meat is often left unrefrigerated, and when it is managed to be refrigerated, frequent power outages renders them widely unreliable. It feels like starting from scratch at times.

These challenges make my job working in the butcher shop at UAC-Carmen Pampa more difficult, but I know that any improvements made will have a great impact.

My goal at the university is to show the importance of food safety while teaching the students skills that will lead to success in the competitive job market and make Bolivia a safer place to live and eat.

From Southern California, Tom graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with a degree in crop science. He feels a deep connection to food and plans to work on agricultural development and food security while on mission. Tom served at Carmen Pampa University in Carmen Pampa, Bolivia.