Food safety message to LMC Students

Dexter Dunzweiler

Guest speaker Julio Loaiza came to Los Medanos College on September 22 to talk to students about his journey to become a doctor and the workplace he encountered.

Coming from a town in Mexico with less than five thousand people, Loaiza explains how far he has come. “To get out, one must get educated,” said Loaiza, who after high school went to start his college education in Sinaloa, Mexico.

Loaiza explains that even though he graduated with the highest honors in his B.A. in Biochemical Engineering (food emphasis), there were very few connections in Mexico, making it hard to get a job.

Loaiza explained there was an opportunity to be a research scientist in Arizona, but one of the requirements was to pass an English proficiency exam.

Loaiza had only two months to rigorously study dozens of tapes and books, but his hard work paid off when he passed and secured his spot.

While working in Arizona as a research scientist for a state school, Loaiza decided to apply to UC Davis.

Five years later Loaiza earned his PHD in food biochemistry, post harvest physiology, and handling of fruits and vegetables from UC Davis.

After earning his degree Loaiza started getting job offers to work at various food companies engineering ways to increase shelf life.

Soon, Loaiza found himself working for NASA in Texas developing space food, and later working for International Food Technology. Loaiza figured out how to prevent lettuce from browning after being cut by putting it through heat stress.

Loaiza explained that the academic side of research does not pay very well, and that the industry is where money can be made, which is why he moved jobs to work within a food company as Senior Research Scientist. He explained how vegetables continue to give off carbon dioxide after being cut, forcing sealed plastic bags to expand and eventually explode from the fermenting greens.

Loaiza went on to create a bag with microscopic holes that allowed both carbon dioxide to exit and oxygen to enter.

Loaiza said, “If you are knowledgeable in a subject that few people are, you become important.”

“Trying to prove someone wrong is a hobby for scientists,” said Loaiza, explaining how the scientific method does just that by constantly challenging everyday products and beliefs to affirm their credibility or find need to reinvent the outdated.

However, Loaiza shows that there are limits to how far even this scientific urge will go for money. While at another company, Loaiza was asked to write a statement approving plastic bags for microwave use despite the fact they were not microwave-safe. Afraid of liability, Loaiza refused to write the statement and decided to leave the job due to this ethical compromise.

The company offered more money as incentive for him to stay, but, Loaiza reflected, “At some point you have to do what you feel is right. It’s one thing to use the name of science to solve problems, it’s another to make profit.”

While working for a family-owned company who hired only immediate family as management, Loaiza found himself in another sticky situation. The boss of the factory was the nephew of the owner, who, because of his lack of expertise, accidentally opened a valve that allowed sewage water to integrate with the water line used to wash vegetables.

This spoiled 600,000 pounds of product which owner of the company still wanted to sell despite possible pathogens.

Loaiza stood firmly and told the boss that he was not going to be a part of the situation and decided to leave. He reminded the boss that the choice was up to him, but so was the responsibility of the outcome.

This successfully scared the boss enough to get rid of the contaminated product. He asked Loaiza if he would stay if they promised to make changes.

Loaiza responded by putting in his two-weeks notice, stating that if changes were made before then, he would stay.

The nephew was fired and change began to come to the company, but it wasn’t enough for Loaiza.

“I was there to protect the consumer,” said Loaiza, “not to make profits without concern for consumers. I didn’t want it to look like I don’t care.”

Loaiza said he applied to be a consultant for a different company and was instead offered an opportunity to be in charge of the various departments of the site.

“I built the company,” said Loaiza, “I was stressed.”

Loaiza explains the job was simply too much work with too little worth, leading him to feel as though he was not living his life correctly.

Loaiza chose to step down, explaining to the company that he had only wanted to be a consultant.

However, Loaiza found his calling not long after, when he became a professor at Cabrillo College.

“I felt that I did a lot of what was supposed to be done,” said Loaiza, “I like to interact with students, challenge them. You are the future, and when you challenge yourself, you get more out of it”.

Loaiza tries to go above and beyond in his teaching and interacting with students to help prepare them for the future, “I always demanded more from my teachers,” Loaiza explains, “it pays off to get a good education.”

He challenges his students to question what they are learning to gain a fuller understanding of the subject and the world around them. “Try to question what is good, not everything is correct,” said Loaiza.

However, he encourages everyone to stay strong to their core beliefs, as he had to during uncomfortable situations in his career.

“Keep your morals and ethics, it is very important,” said Loaiza, “We can only rely on people that are going to be ethical”.

LMC physics professor Jeanne Bonner said, “We’re hoping to do some collaboration with Cabrillo College in the future.”

The presentation gave science students at LMC a real life example of what could be in store for them after graduating.

“He [Loaiza] reassured me about jobs in the future, Brandon Knight an LMC and MESA student said, “how many things need to be designed and engineered.”