How to Become a Food Safety Specialist

Overview

If you are a fan of food and safeguarding the health and lives of the citizens that consume it, then to satisfy such a combination you should become a food safety specialist. Not only will you be involved in an industry and cause of your liking, but you will get paid to do so – what could be better than that?

The discipline of food safety is scientific. It focuses on the preparation, handling and storage of edible food in such a manner to prevent any food related illnesses. Using systems and strict protocols, a food safety specialist devises standard operating procedures and routine processes aimed at reducing and eliminating food related health hazards. The purpose of every food safety specialist is to protect and safeguard the health of everyone who consumes the food.

Education Requirements

To enter the industry of food safety, it is generally expected of candidates to possess a bachelor’s degree in sciences such as biology, nutrition, chemistry or a similar focus. The knowledge and training during a bachelor’s degree will help set a foundation and understanding of food safety.

You may also find local food safety programs that offer training and exposure to guidelines and standards devised by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S Food and Drug Administration, ISO 22000 (International Organization for Standardization), HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), and the U.S Department of Health services. The standards are usually updated and relevant to food safety.

To further advance your career, it is advised to opt for a graduate degree or certification in food science or food safety. This can also pave the path for research and development which may provide breakthroughs. For certification needs and information on exams, course material and schedules, you should turn to the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals (nrfsp.com)

Job Duties

The job duties of a food safety specialist are quite straight forward and simple as they are governed by a set of standards and policies. However, the job duties will vary depending on the policies of the industry, size of the food market and food market segmentation. The list below should give you a preview to the job duties you may expect in this line of work.

  1. Coordinate and consult with local food regulatory bodies  with respect to food safety and hygiene
  2. Coordinate with procurement officers regarding acceptable and standardized food ingredient purchases
  3. Educate and enlighten food handlers in various markets on health guidelines and food safety policies and health codes
  4. Study product and food formulations and preparation procedure to identify health hazards and points of concern
  5. Develop constructive and corrective strategies to address red flagged areas in food preparation
  6. Conduct surveys and audits on restaurants, hotels, cafeterias and similar companies
  7. Rate each business’s food safety practices based on guidelines and policies. Accordingly suggest corrections for improving a poor rating
  8. Determine if business is complying with regulations and policies regarding food safety
  9. Accurately identify supply chain and value chain in a business.
  10. Look for visible and physical evidence of pests and small animals that could cause contamination in the food preparation area
  11. Perform laboratory tests on sample foods and ingredients to determine level of threat
  12. Constantly update your knowledge and information on food safety by researching and studying for new methods of food safety

Career Outlook

The career outlook for food safety specialists is quite favorable. With the increased awareness in healthy eating and disease prevention, consumers and end users of food and beverage products are quite particular and careful about what they eat. Consumers demand that their food is prepared under rigid and hygienic conditions. To do so, food servers such as restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, fast food joints and so on have enlisted the help of food safety specialists to meet the market expectations.

According to the statistical database of the Centers for Disease Control, the number of Americans that fall victim to a foodborne illness every year stands at over 76 million. All the more reason why there is a need for qualified food safety specialists to drastically better this figure.

Salary Prospects

The average annual salary for a food safety specialist is around $45,000 (simplyhired.com). In this line of work what determines salary growth are factors such as level of experience, clientele and the market you are operating in.

Where the laws are strict and the policies for food safety are stringent, the chances of earning a greater salary may be greater. Furthermore, the industry you work in also plays a role in determining your salary. For instance, to work as a food safety specialist in the hotel and fine dining industry may be more demanding than working in a school cafeteria and therefore the compensation will differ greatly.

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