July/August 2019

United Fresh food safety head Jennifer McEntire calls produce industry ‘most cooperative’

Jennifer McEntire is vice president of food safety and technology at United Fresh Produce Association. A food microbiologist by background, she has always worked in the Washington, D.C., area, bringing the scientific perspective to food

Jennifer McEntire
Jennifer McEntire, United Fresh Produce Association

safety regulatory issues. She was previously vice president of science operations at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and has also had roles as vice president and chief science officer at The Acheson Group and the senior staff scientist and director of science and technology projects at the Institute of Food Technologies (IFT).

McEntire earned a Ph.D. from Rutgers University and a Bachelor of Science with Distinction, magna cum laude, in food science from the University of Delaware. She is a member of IFT, where she serves as an advisory board member of the Global Food Traceability Center. She also belongs to the International Association for Food Protection and serves on the board of Phi Tau Sigma, the food science honorary society.

What are the best words of advice you’ve received?

“Sometimes good enough is good enough.” My doctoral adviser at Rutgers, Tom Montville, gave me this advice after I graduated. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, but I do want to be proud of my work. His advice reminds me that sometimes you just need to get stuff done and not let perfection be the enemy of good.

What job or work would you have pursued if you had not become involved in the produce industry?

I love food safety, and I’ve loved every job I’ve ever had. I especially love sharing information with others and stimulating them to ask their own questions and seek out answers, so if I wasn’t in this role I would probably be managing a big internship program so that I could introduce youth to the field of food safety and build a new generation of food safety professionals.

What do you do to relax?

I don’t relax, and I’ve come to terms with this. I relaxed for one day a couple of years ago and wound up forgetting to call my mom on her birthday. I won’t relax again!

What would you like to be your lasting legacy?

I’m just one person, so the best thing that I can do is ignite the passion for food safety in others. We need more people in this field.

What are three things on your bucket list?

  1. Fulfill my daughter’s dream of going to Paris for her 16th birthday
  2. See the Egyptian pyramids
  3. I don’t know. Seeking suggestions.

What is the one truth you have learned about the produce industry?

People in this industry are so friendly! I’ve been welcomed with open arms, and people are so willing to open their doors/farms to me, ask questions, give answers. This is the most cooperative, well-intentioned community in the food space that I’ve worked with.

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