GSI’s Newest Member Jennifer Young is International Seafood Safety Specialist

by / Newsroom Ink on September 20, 2015
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Sitting on a beach enjoying the sunset on a remote Pacific island has been a perk enjoyed by Jennifer Young during her last seven years as a food safety specialist based in Hawaii, but in her heart she realized she missed the bayous of Louisiana and the Gulf seafood she enjoyed. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor

Sitting on a beach enjoying the sunset on a remote Pacific island has been a perk enjoyed by Jennifer Young during her last seven years as a food safety specialist based in Hawaii, but as the Pacific’s waves gently broke against the shore she realized something was missing. But in her heart she realized she missed the bayous of Louisiana and the Gulf seafood she enjoyed.

Young, owner of Food Safety Solutions and the Gulf Seafood Institute’s newest member, is glad to be back home in Louisiana, as well as a new member an organization that she sees a loud and clear voice for Gulf seafood.

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Young (left rear) is owner of Food Safety Solutions and the Gulf Seafood Institute’s newest member, In her Hawaii office she met with Pacific Rim clients (l-r); Jin Liang, Luen Thai Fishing Venture, Rose Leah Palo, Marshall Islands Fishing Venture, Grace Caina, Luen Thai Fishing Venture and Ray Hine, SQF Food Safety Auditor. Photo: Food Safety Solutions

“I loved my time on the Island, but to be honest I missed the culture and the food of Louisiana, especially the seafood,” I was also starting to get frustrated by the direction of the industry and its limitations, such as the tug of war with annual catch limits and imposed longline fishery closures. While I still maintain an office in Hawaii staffed with experienced professionals, my heart finally led me back home to Louisiana.”

Originally from a small town south of Alexandria, she attended the University of Southwest Louisiana, now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and received her Bachelor of Business Administration of the American Intercontinental University founded in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Young is a registered Safe Quality Food (SQF) Consultant and has obtained certification in High Risk Food Sector Category 9 and 11, as well as 21 CFR Part 123 Seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).   She is also a National Environmental Health Association Registered Food Safety Trainer, and is accredited to develop Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) programs, as well as British Retail Consortium programs and Good Manufacturing Practices.

Learned Seafood from Ground Up

During her time in Hawaii, Young learned the seafood industry from the ground up. Starting her education at the auction, to cutting and trimming, grading, sales, marketing and finally graduating into food safety compliance and sustainability issues.

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During her time in Hawaii, Young learned the seafood industry from the ground up that included regular visits to the United Fishing AgencyLTD daily fish auction in Honolulu. Photo: Food Safety Solutions

“I gained great experience working with fisheries deeply involved with sustainable practices like the Fishery Improvement Projects (FIP) to address the Pelagic Longline Bigeye and Yellowfin Fisheries in the Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands,” she told Gulf Seafood News.

The Louisiana native also worked closely with NGO’s such as the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, Marine Steward Council and FishWise. She became proficient in researching and writing white papers on numerous seafood programs in Hawaii, the Marshall Islands and other U.S. Pacific Rim locations.

She has found seafood industries across the U.S. face similar issues from region to region and is determined to build upon the accomplishments of her Pacific Rim partners to translate them into the similar success stories in the Gulf.

“I was responsible for traveling the globe and setting up the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification,” she explained. “I worked closely with teams in the Republic of Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Pohnpei, Guam and a host of other U.S. Pacific territories, as well as in the Pacific Northwest.”

Her Food Safety Solutions clients include some of the biggest names in Pacific seafood, both U.S. and international, that included; Annasea International Hawaii, Western United Fish Company, Luen Thai Fishing Venture of Hong Kong and Marshall Islands Fishing Venture.

Young also worked to develop food safety programs and implement GFSI for non-fishing companies that included; TruTag Technologies, Hansen Distribution, Kona Deep Bottling Company, and the Rare Hawaiian Honey Company, which is led by the President of the Marine Conservation Science Institute.

Supporting Seafood

“I want to grow on the experience I gained working in the seafood industry in the Pacific Rim. My new mission is supporting the seafood industries of the Gulf, because it is my home and a very important part of me,” she explained.

Photo: Food Safety Solutions

Young believes all your passion and efforts in this industry are wasted if you don’t have good partners. With Marshall Islands Fishing Venture compliance practitioner Rose they celebrate an “excellent” rating after the intital SQF certification. Photo: Food Safety Solutions

When starting her business, Young received a piece of advice she never forgot from the owner of one of Hawaii’s largest and most successful seafood suppliers.

“While at his restaurant one day he explained ‘all your passion and efforts in this industry are wasted if you don’t have good partners’,” Young said. “I took him seriously and I’ll never forget his advice. I look forward to developing new partnerships and being a strong voice in the Gulf seafood industry and working toward getting a number of important initiatives passed that other regions have missed out on.”

Young sees tremendous similarities to her work in the Pacific with seafood in the Gulf, especially with issues such as catch limits, illegal–unreported-unregulated (IUU) fishing, as well as electronic data collection. She said Hawaii has had a very effective electronic data collections system in place for a number of years, and is glad to see the Gulf is starting to put this in place for the charter-for-hire sector of the red snapper fishery.

“Electronic data collection is a huge issue,” she said. “It was a priority of a number of Hawaiian fisheries to monitoring the controls and limits set by the Western Pacific Fishery Council.”

Big Ocean, Bigger Problems

Covering seafood issues concerning the world’s largest body of water meant the seafood issues were also some of the biggest in the world, especially concerning seafood safety. One of her responsibilities included client research on viable foreign shrimp exporters from countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, New Caledonia and Kauai.

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One of Young’s responsibilities included client research on viable foreign shrimp exporters from countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, New Caledonia and Kauai. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

International seafood safety and fish fraud are huge issues affecting pricing of many of the Gulf’s seafood species, especially shrimp.

“Constantly I dealt with international suppliers who counterfeited health certificates, and the U.S. importers who regularly sought ways to bypass U.S entry restrictions—often attempting to import IUU catch by routing it through Guam or the Federated States of Micronesia to “re-import” into the U.S. via their TSA clearance,” she explained about her day-to-day involvement with the issue.

Young noted her dealings with one company’s practice of “re-branding strategy” foreign product as U.S. origin brought her to an ethical dilemma. She decided to returned to her core value of “good partnerships” and immediately realigned her business. “Counterfeiting, re-branding and illegal fishing is prevalent in the Pacific Rim, happening again and again with not only shrimp, but tuna and snappers from IUU fishing stocks,” she said.

According to the bayou born native, imported shrimp from the Far East are perhaps some of the riskiest on the U.S. market.

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According to the bayou born native, imported shrimp from the Far East are perhaps some of the riskiest on the U.S. market.. Photo: Google

“While inspecting product from seven suppliers over a period of a year, I found all had consistently high levels of decomposition,” she explained about her first hand investigation. “The quality of the shrimp was so bad we eventually looked to India to meet the supplier’s need, however there we found a similar pattern of decomposition, residues and intentional alterations of government health certificates supposedly issued by the India Certification Agency.  The foreign suppliers I researched then remain on the Food and Drug Administration Red List (Import Alert) today.”

Young was eventually able to find sustainable shrimp supplier in New Caledonia and Kauai, but asked what she eats she responded, “Only premium wild caught Gulf shrimp, that is all that goes in this mouth.”

Young sees client advocacy as one of her top three business strengths. Getting the issues out there, the footprint set and successfully executing the game plan is what she brings to the table for her clients – have a voice, be a voice and execute.

Involved in Gulf and GSI

Her knowledge of both catch side and the food safety compliance side issues allow her to help a client build a quality brand on a global scale, as well as at home.

“A company’s dedication to food safety as a priority translates because it shows dedication to quality based upon a tradition. It’s has to be the cornerstone of seafood,” she said. “It’s a company’s recognition and assurance to deliver the highest quality products to customers who seek the highest standard possible. It’s some of the best marketing available for a seafood product.”

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Young sees a host of similar issues affecting both regions; marketplace; weather, government involvement at various levels and of course import-export issues. Photo: Food Safety Solutions

As soon as she established her Baton Rouge headquarters, she decided to jump right into Gulf seafood issues. One of her first acts was joining the Gulf Seafood Institute. “The reason I joined GSI is because it was pretty evident that it was the place to start. It is the Gulf seafood organization with the greatest visible advocacy, planned strategy and committed partners across the Gulf,” she said.

Young sees a host of similar issues affecting both regions of her business; marketplace; weather, government involvement at various levels and of course import-export issues.

“These are issues that I dealt with daily in the Pacific and expect to see here in the Gulf,” she said. “I have already started working on red snapper, finfish and reef-fish issues here. It is encouraging to see the vast level of involvement from Gulf fisherman, processors and various associations.”

“The experience Young brings to the table will be an invaluable asset to the Gulf Seafood Institute,” said GSI’s executive director Margaret Henderson. “Her knowledge of international seafood issues, especially shrimp, will give our organization an even louder voice, both in the Gulf and on Capitol Hill. I look forward to working with her on upcoming legislation.”

Young remembers working on Riparian advocacy projects in the early 1990’s for salmon and the Washington/Oregon watershed protection. It was there she learned success with any issue begins with understanding. “I need to fully understand the climate, the needs, and the challenges of Gulf seafood,” she said. “My involvement with GSI will allow this to happen. I am all about being an instrument of change and I am going to step in and do my part wherever I can.”


Jennifer Young can be reached at: jennifer@thefoodsafetysolution.com

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About the Author

About the Author: Ed Lallo is the former editor of Gulf Seafood News and CEO of Newsroom Ink, an online brand journalism agency. .

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