Australian food safety auditor Joanne Bulle lives and breathes food safety.
Bulle has a diverse background in the food industry, including livestock husbandry, studying food technology and food science, working as a qualified chef, running her own restaurant, and working for a fast-moving consumer goods supplier and delivering food safety training. Bulle is a member of The Australian Food Science and Technology Institute and has an ever increasing thirst to improve her knowledge and continue learning.
Experience in each of these varied yet complementary environments has given Bulle a 360 degree view of the food industry and has armed her with a strong desire to improve food safety amongst the food industry from farm to fork.
“Having spent a large proportion of my working life in a commercial kitchen, I became frustrated at the level of cleanliness with regard to some of the people in industry,” Bulle says. “I felt that was something I could have a positive contribution to [changing]. I believe it’s not hard to do things well with regard to food safety.”
Driven by the desire to primarily improve food safety in the kitchen, Bulle began auditing in 2011 and established her own business—FoodSafe Guardian.
“When you look at my career history, although it wasn’t exactly stepped out and planned, it is closely interlinked,” Bulle says. “I combine all of these skills and knowledge, and I carry that through my work.” “I really enjoy the interaction of other professionals within the broader food industry.”
Based in Wodonga, in rural Victoria, Australia, Bulle predominantly audits in the vulnerable persons (VP) space, which includes hospitals, aged care, and child care. Bulle audits dairy farms and is involved with HACCP audits for manufactured goods in regional N.S.W.
Bulle began her auditing career working with the New South Wales Food Authority in VP facilities, where she was mentored by a dairy auditor who was retiring. “He was a wonderful mentor and I gained the opportunity to observe and ask questions,” Bulle says.
“As I learned more and started getting access to industry mentors and professionals, I became more aware that there were additional opportunities that were an extension of the areas that I was truly passionate about.”
Having experienced first-hand the benefits of mentoring, Bulle sings the praises of the practice. However, because she is located in a rural area, accessing mentoring or professional development opportunities can prove difficult. The creation of a network of professionals to help one another was key to overcome this issue.
“We need senior people to hang around to help the younger people,” Bulle says. “How can we retain that knowledge base to add value to our younger auditors?
“Even if we could retain these people on a part-time basis, I think that would be invaluable to have their knowledge and their skills.”
Further to this, Bulle is actively involved in ongoing professional development.
“Learning from the experts and being able to follow through on the knowledge and expertise of knowledge is really important to me—particularly from people who have been in the industry a lot longer than myself.
“As a chef, you learn very quickly to take constructive feedback. It has helped me become a better professional.”
Working remotely can also raise other issues, such as dealing with confrontational situations. Although this comes with the territory, it can be difficult for auditors who work on their own.
“At the end of the day, it’s a learning curve for all involved,” Bulle said. “I try and be positive wherever I can because it’s best for everybody.”
It can be said that Bulle got to where she is today through passion and hard work—striving for excellence in what she believed in. Her story highlights the value of mentoring and professional development not only for those starting out in the profession but also for auditors who work in remote areas and may feel disconnected from other professionals.