Dave Cotto is the Food Safety Specialist at Columbian. He manages the entire quality program at CLN, including all Food Safety, Food Defense, and HACCP Programs. He manages their inter-dependencies, their structure, their administration, and most importantly, the accountability related to those programs. Dave works hard to make sure that our customers are happy and their product is safe.
In fact, Dave was recently nominated by a customer for the Legendary Customer Service (LCS) Award and won it. You can read more about the nomination in our second quarter newsletter. His work defines LCS because of his diligence. There are so many people in the organization who have no idea of the depth of knowledge that Dave holds because they might only see him out in the warehouse pulling samples for a customer quality audit. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. He almost single-handedly keeps Columbian “in the game” with customers who require quality programs and auditing structures, and most people never even hear about him.
We decided that his hard work should be recognized, and his behind-the-scenes work should be spotlighted.
- Describe what your life is like when a customer shows up for an audit.
“Previously, I would have been super nervous. Today, I think our facilities are ‘food safety audit ready’. I am real comfortable. I think everyone is comfortable with the way our facilities look. Cosmetically, it’s excellent.”
- What food safety certifications do you hold?
” Science of Food Manufacturing (AIB), Principles of Sanitation in Manufacturing (AIB), Principles of Warehouse Sanitation (AIB), Quality Assurance & HACCP (AIB), HACCP (AIB), FSPCA Preventive Controls for Human Foods (IFPI), SQF Food Safety Practitioner (NFS), PCQI training (IFPI).”
- How did you get started in food safety?
“My previous employer had a mentoring program in place. During that process, I was exposed to sanitation and food safety. I was able to attend third party audits. That peaked my interest at that time, and I thought that this was something that I would like to do.”
- What are some of the key differences you see between food safety in a manufacturing company vs. a logistics company?
“BIG difference. Manufacturing companies deal with exposed foods and all the risks that come with exposed foods. At a third-party warehouse, we are dealing with concealed foods. It’s very limited in the supply chain, but very important.
- How long have you been working in food safety?
“I have been working in food safety for 29 years. I have been in the food business for 35 years. I started at Columbian in 2006.”
- What regulatory agencies do you work with?
“Most of our facilities fall into the FDA jurisdiction. But, one or two facilities have the USDA come in because we have milk or egg byproducts in those warehouses.”
- What’s your average day like?
“It varies quite a bit. It depends on what is going on with the customer. There’s a lot of communication with the customer and myself.”
- What teams at Columbian do you work with?
“I work with the Product Integrity Team mostly. I also work a lot with facility management. Depending on the issue, I could work with everyone and anyone.”
- What’s your favorite part about your job?
“My favorite part of the job and I’m not kidding you… I like answering questions and I really like dealing with food safety procedures. I find it interesting. What triggered a standard? Why do we have to implement that standard? I find that intriguing. My favorite part is problem-solving the root cause of an issue.”
- Lastly, how did you become a Buckeye fan?
“Born and raised in Ohio.”
Dave’s diligence in tying our programs and actual practices together really keeps us in good standing with our customers. On a recent audit from our customer’s customer, they were asking many detailed questions and Dave was able to point to the policy, procedure, and written verification quickly and accurately. Our customer’s customer auditor was trying hard to find a chink in our armor, and Dave wouldn’t let it happen. We all were extremely impressed but even the auditor made the comment that ‘he could learn a thing or two from Dave’. -Jim Gadziemski, Vice President of Warehouse Operations