Not many people take the time to stop and think about all the work that happens before they go to the supermarket and pick up something for dinner. There are dozens of people involved in the preparation, packaging, and distribution of all food items in the United States prior to the items landing on shelves all over the country. A food safety inspector is one of the most important of these people upon whose work our nourishment depends.
Whether the inspection involves meat from freshly slaughtered animals, the integrity of the canning process at a vegetable packing plant, or even the materials of which potato chip bags are made, the inspector is responsible for ensuring that everything is ship-shape. A food safety inspector must abide by the laws of the United States and also any additional restrictions on food at the state and local level, including religious restrictions, such as halal or kosher preparation.
In addition to checking food products originating domestically, food safety inspectors must examine all foods that come into the United States. They work at seaports, airports, and land crossings into the country and apply the same rigorous standards as their domestic-item counterparts. Their job, however, is tougher because of all of the non-native species of all kinds, including pathogens, for which they must check. Necessarily, those inspectors who deal with imports are not in entry-level positions.
Both an inspector and food safety inspection supervisor must pass a physical exam before their applications can be accepted. The job requires moderate lifting of weights and standing and walking for extended periods. Depending on which items they inspect on any given day, applicants must be able to tolerate excessive heat or cold. Usually, for safety reasons, an applicant cannot be missing a limb. Leg prostheses are allowable if the applicant has full range of motion. Applicants also cannot be colorblind. As the people upon whom the country depends for a large chunk of its public health, you will be required to undergo a background check and, in some cases, even be required to have a security clearance.
The educational requirements include a bachelor’s degree in applied food and environmental science or applicable field experience. Applicants must also either have the requisite certifications relevant for the industry in which they plan to work or be able to show that they will achieve them within a reasonable amount of time. Applicants can also secure optional certifications beyond the basics to make themselves more attractive to interviewers.
A food safety inspection supervisor might be required to have an applicable master’s degree. An applicant should also have leadership training of some kind. Multiple years’ experience is often required, as well, so an applicant should inquire about that before applying. A supervisory position will also require a higher level of writing proficiency than that of a non-supervisory inspector.
Inspecting people’s food is a big responsibility. People who apply, therefore, should exhibit the necessary qualities and have the proper training and education to fulfill all of the required duties of the position.