Being a food safety specialist may seem like a good gig: travel, meet and talk with stakeholders, inspect how companies produce food, and get paid.
We agree this job has some perks, but they come with a handful of responsibilities. The facility inspected, clients, and public are expecting you to identify food hazards and do a great job of protecting the society’s health.
But, on the bright side, your observations have positive impacts on the public and help the organization improve.
So, how to get a job like this? These four steps are the solid framework of how to become a food safety specialist which can help you determine a pathway to achieve your dream.
What Does A Food Safety Specialist Do?
Food safety inspectors examine commercial and manufactured food products for any contaminants, such as biological substances like viruses, bacteria and parasites; physical substances like dirt, glass and plastic waste; or chemical substances like cleaners, pesticides and sanitizers.
Food inspectors also ensure packaged foods are labeled precisely. They must look out for potential hazards that can cause food contamination and observe preparation processes to ensure they follow the law and the best standard of practice.
Food inspectors, along with the local government, can also discontinue food production or suspend an operating license for food services if a company is found to have non-compliance with food safety laws and regulations.
How To Become A Food Safety Specialist?
Complete Your Education
Food safety specialists are typically required to have earned their bachelor’s degree to be qualified for entry level employment.
Completing a degree from an accredited environmental health program is the best route to enter the environmental health field.
Accredited programs are consistently scrutinized and held to higher standards than others, well-preparing students for the work they’ll be expected to undertake.
Programs are accredited through the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC).
Accumulate On-The-Job Experience
Food safety specialists receive on-the-job training in their entry-level positions. This training helps them learn the specific processes and procedures of the company. They also learn about the company’s policies and procedures.
Food safety specialists can also receive additional training through conferences and seminars.
These events provide food safety specialists with the latest information on food safety regulations and practices. They can also learn about new technologies and methods for ensuring food safety.
If you are just starting out, I would advise seeking out internships with regulatory agencies such as boards of health, the FDA, USDA, or with food companies.
If you have no experience, you could start out at a private company in Quality Assurance. This would give you great experience to then become an inspector.
Despite the name, Quality Assurance generally plays a big role in food safety such as checking critical control points, verifying sanitation, and checking food safety documentation.
You should look for jobs such as “Quality Assurance Technician” or “Food Safety Manager”.
Build Necessary Skills
What skills do you need to be a food safety inspector?
Safety and health regulations are constantly changing, so it’s important for food safety specialists to be able to communicate with their colleagues and superiors about these changes.
They also need to be able to communicate effectively with employees to ensure they understand the importance of following food safety regulations.
Attention to detail
Food safety specialists must have excellent attention to detail to ensure they follow all regulations and guidelines.
Attention to detail can also help them identify potential hazards in the workplace and ensure they take the necessary steps to prevent them.
For example, if a food safety specialist notices a temperature gauge is not working properly, they may need to replace it to ensure the food is safe to eat.
Food safety knowledge
Food safety knowledge is the foundation of a food safety specialist’s skill set. This knowledge can help them understand the regulations and standards that affect the food industry.
It can also help them identify potential risks and hazards that may affect the quality of food products.
Seek A Suitable Workplace
Once you have completed your education, then you can become a food safety specialist by finding work in the industry.
Work in food safety is typically found either with a government agency that handles food inspections to ensure compliance with government regulations, or found at private companies that hire food inspectors to ensure standards are met for government policies.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) typically handles these types of inspections, while in England these regulations are established and enforced by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
You could look for opportunities to become a food safety specialist in one of these agencies or with a private company such as a meat packing plant or wholesale food distributor.
Where Does A Food Safety Specialist Work?
Food safety specialists see a lot of things the rest of us would rather not know. This is not a career for anyone with a sensitive stomach.
Inspections can take food safety specialists into processing plants, onto farms and into other facilities that can be excessively hot, cold, humid, noisy and smelly.
Inspectors may be required to wear protective equipment and may be on their feet much of the day, climbing stairs, standing, kneeling and walking on slippery, narrow, uneven or muddy surfaces.
The work can be fast-paced, with tight deadlines and multiple pressures. It can get confrontational as well, if you must close down a facility because of health violations.
To Sum Up
Food safety specialists ensure the foods and beverages you’re consuming are safe and have certificates of origin.
Because of the expected growth in population size and increased emphasis on living conditions and healthy diets, the need for qualified food safety inspectors is rising.The more people rely on companies to provide food, the more promising this career is. It’s a good idea to cruise around the field and challenge yourself with some food safety specialist jobs. The job outlook is secured!