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  1. I Am ORA

I Am ORA Profile: John Marcello

John Marcello, Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of State Cooperative Programs (OSCP), Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

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My life has always been about food. I was born into a family that owned a restaurant. Having that background gave me a solid understanding of the food industry and the working environment that impacts food safety. One can choose from many careers, but how many of those present an opportunity to impact people’s lives for the better? For me, it doesn’t get any better than that!

My name is John Marcello and feel privileged to be the Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of State Cooperative Programs (OSCP) at ORA. As the Special Assistant to the Director, I work with a talented team to establish and carry out our strategic priorities including helping to guarantee the safety of Americans’ food.

OSCP’s goal is to prevent foodborne illness through the promotion of uniform national programs. We provide technical support, guidance, training, and standardization to assist our regulatory partners in their efforts to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. We also conduct assessments of state regulatory programs and assist FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and the Center for Veterinary Medicine in the development of best practices and scientific risk-based policies.

OSCP works to promote continuing program improvement and collaboration in food safety efforts. We are committed to being an international food safety leader and partner through our cooperation and collaboration with state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) regulatory agencies, as well as federal agencies (e.g., CDC, USDA, NOAA, EPA), academia, industry and foreign countries. FDA cannot do it alone and wouldn’t be able to bear the burden of meeting the inspectional requirements necessary to help ensure public health without leveraging these working relationships. All these partners work together to keep the food we eat safe.

OSCP has three divisions whose responsibilities include milk safety, shellfish sanitation, and retail food protection. While regulation of these products is primarily performed by the states, the agency strongly influences adoption of regulations and model ordinances. We participate in national conferences biannually to review issues impacting retail food, milk, and shellfish programs through submission of proposals from members and organizations. With FDA leading the way, we work cooperatively with industry and the states at these conferences. We provide leadership in the development of standards used to safeguard public health and ensure the safety of retail food, milk, and shellfish commodities.

Before joining ORA, I spent 15 years as a Registered Environment Health Specialist and Training Officer for a local health department. I also worked for the National Restaurant Association as their Manager of Technical Education for five years. These experiences helped build my knowledge of food safety issues and were extremely useful when I joined ORA more than 21 years ago as a Retail Food Specialist.

As a Retail Food Specialist, I worked primarily with the state, local, tribal, and territorial governments in Arizona and Nevada. I provided technical assistance and support to our partners. I also have had the honor to serve as one of the project leads for FDA’s National Retail Food Team’s Retail Food Risk Factor Study. This study measures trends in the occurrence of foodborne illness risk factors and examines food preparation practices and retail food employee behaviors that are critical to food safety. These are commonly reported to CDC as contributing factors to foodborne illness outbreaks. I was proud and privileged to have been part of the research that is now an important tool in developing the strategic direction for the agency’s retail food protection program.

I am John Marcello and #IAmORA.

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