Food Safety Specialist - How to Become a Food Safety Specialist

Food Safety Specialist

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Food Safety Specialist Job Description

 

The job of a food safety specialist is to make sure that the quality and the safety of the food supply are in compliance with the standards. The specialists often become experts in a particular aspect of food production or in a particular section of the food industry. A prime example of that would be the meat processing section of the food industry.

With the United States becoming more and more dependent on imported and processed foods, it's no wonder that the work of food safety specialists has become increasingly more necessary. These professionals utilized systems, strict protocols, and regulations to keep the food industry in line with the safety standards put in place by government to protect the public.

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Responsibilities

 

It is the responsibility of food specialists to enforce proper methods of seed selection, pest control, fertilization, storage, transport and harvesting on foods that are grown in America. They are also in charge of making sure that food items have been labelled properly, stored at the right temperature and removed from the shelf once they have expired. Food products that are shipped in from abroad are inspected and managed by import inspectors.

In the case of commercially processed foods, food safety specialists are required to monitor all the stages of food processing, ensure that equipment is fit to use, and identify potential threats of contamination. In certain cases, food safety specialists are seen enforcing health and safety regulations in restaurants and catering services.

Other responsibilities of food safety specialists include:

  • Implementing and maintaining new regulations within their domain.

  • Establishing relationships with development teams through partnerships to ensure high-quality storage practices.

  • Determine regulatory compliance of facilities within their jurisdiction.

  • Educate food-handlers on safe food and health policies.

  • Conduct surveys of hotels, restaurants, food distributors, and others.

  • Perform lab tests, in some cases, on ingredients and foods to determine if they are a threat to human health.

  • Stay informed on changes or advances in the field.

  • Maintain records information on an array of topics, including pest control, quality assurance, sanitation, and others.

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Skills

 

Communication

Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.

Active Listening

Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature.

Critical Thinking

Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Judgment and Decision Making

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. 

Complex Problem Solving

Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. 

Stress Management

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.

Trustworthiness

Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it. 

Perceptiveness

Gauging how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies.

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Working Conditions

 

Majority of the food safety specialists is employed in government agencies. Some of them are registered workers for food producers who are trying to fully cooperate with the government on maintaining the quality and safety of their food products.

Food safety specialists have to divide their work hours between the office and the inspection sites. Their presence is needed in processing plants, farms and other food production or processing facilities where the environment can be quite unpleasant for individuals due to extremes of temperature, noise and smells.

Food safety specialists are known to work on tight deadlines and are thus under immense pressure. In certain cases, inspections can turn out to be hugely confrontational if they are left with no choice but to close down a facility due to health and safety concerns.

 


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How to Become a Food Safety Specialist:

 

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

 

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).

 

The preparation timeline below provides an example environmental health curriculum:

 

Grade Level

Example Courses

Freshman Year

 

  • Biology I & Lab

  • Biology II & Lab

  • College Algebra

  • Pre-Calculus

  • Public Speaking

  • English I

  • English II

  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Sophomore Year

  • Physics I & Lab

  • Chemistry I & Lab

  • Chemistry II & Lab

  • Molecular Biology & Lab

  • Statistics I

  • Calculus I

  • Literature

  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Junior Year

 

  • Environmental Health

  • Occupational Health

  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab

  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab

  • Water & Wastewater

  • Epidemiology

  • Bacteriology

  • Communicable Diseases

  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Senior Year

  • Occupational Safety

  • Risk Assessment

  • Industrial Hygiene

  • Anatomy & Physiology I

  • Toxicology

  • Seminar

  • Remaining Electives

 

2. Earn a Certification (Optional)

 

Although earning a certification is not required to enter the field with most employers, some still require them before they will hire a candidate. Obtaining a certification is also advisable as it increases the competitiveness of the candidate versus the qualifications of others, and will likely lead to more opportunities and higher salaries.

The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) offers certifications for food safety specialists, among others.

 

Learn More About the Comprehensive Food Safety (CCFS) Certification

 

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