Dr. Heidi Kassenborg
"In December of 2014, Heidi, a veterinarian and former Director of the Dairy and Food Inspection Division at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, traveled to Egypt to help several MCCs and milk processing centers tackle their food safety challenges."
Profession: Adjunct Professor, University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine Location: Minnesota, U.S.
Career Summary: Heidi is a food safety veterinarian with 20 years of broad experience in food safety regulatory programs at the state and national level, food borne disease outbreak investigations, epidemiology, animal disease emergency management and clinical veterinary practice.
Areas of Expertise: food safety, veterinary medicine, emergency management
Education: MPH, University of Minnesota, School of Public Health DVM, University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine
Languages Spoken: English
Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Program
Core Implementer: Land O’Lakes International Development
Volunteer and Assignment and Impact: In December of 2014, Heidi, a veterinarian and former Director of the Dairy and Food Inspection Division at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, traveled to Egypt to help several Milk Collection Centers and milk processing centers tackle their food safety challenges. Milk Collection Centers (MCCs) have popped up in rural areas throughout Egypt to aggregate milk from multiple farmers (mostly women), provide farmers with a fair price for their milk, and also offer veterinarian services and training. However, many of these centers generally lack knowledge of good hygiene practices and food safety protocols and because milk provides the perfect environment for bacteria growth, bad hygiene practices are a recipe for disaster for unpasteurized and pasteurized milk. In fact, there have been an escalating number of zoonotic diseases in Egyptian hospitals, as a result of consuming unsafe unpasteurized milk. In addition to affecting public health, the threat of bacteria in farmer’s milk, whether it will be pasteurized or not, will adversely affect the farmer’s income.
To address these issues, Heidi’s main objective in Egypt was to provide important recommendations to help MCCs reduce the public health risk, improve food safety and quality, and increase the value of the products farmers produce. She visited four MCCs to gain an understanding of their food safety challenges and opportunities, while also providing important hygiene recommendations to help to improve their milk supply. In addition, Heidi also visited three representative farms and met with Field Representatives employed by MCCs. Because milking on farms in done by hand, the threat of contamination is great. Therefore, Heidi shared recommendations with the Field Representatives on how to reduce any contamination that may occur on-farm, to ensure improve the quality of the milk before it arrives at collection centers. Finally, Heidi’s trip concluded in Bani-Suif, where she delivered a seminar to MCC veterinarians, technicians and managers on zoonotic diseases and safe milking procedures. During her seminar she also made recommendations on food safety protocols and hygiene practices.