Food Safety and Hygiene Officer: Training, Job Description & Duties

The work of a food safety and hygiene officer aims to protect public health by ensuring that food products are safe and free of pathogens that can cause serious illness. There are several career paths in this occupation, including food inspector, consumer safety inspector, and import inspector. To find out more about what these jobs entail, read on. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

As a food safety and hygiene officer, you ensure that food is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. Typically your work is in one or more privately owned food processing plants, where you inspect day-to-day operations. For example in a meat processing plant the food safety and hygiene officer is responsible for inspecting animals before and after slaughter. Consumer safety inspectors make sure that these plants operate within certain standards for sanitation, a hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plan, and processing. In addition, a consumer safety inspector monitors other aspects of plant operations that relate to consumer protection; for example, misbranding.

An import inspector makes sure that food products imported into US are as safe as those produced here. Import inspectors work at ports and entry points around the US. Most positions offer on-the-job training in which you learn about specific laws and inspection procedures. You will also learn to conduct tests and recognize hazards. The length of training depends on your education and level of previous experience. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees more than 7,500 food inspectors nationwide.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree in occupational health and safety or a related scientific field, like engineering, biology, or chemistry
Education Occupational health and safety; related fields like engineering, biology, chemistry, or industrial hygiene
Training required Without a bachelor's, one year of job-related experience demonstrating knowledge of sanitation practices and control measures for handling and preparing food products
Licensure/Certification Written exam that demonstrates skill in interpreting, explaining, and applying standards in a food production environment; successful passing of a pre-employment physical
Job Growth (2016-2026) 10% (for occupational health and safety technicians)*
Median Salary (2018) $49,690 (for occupational health and safety technicians in manufacturing)*

Sources: Food Safety and Inspection Service, *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are Key Skills?

Food safety and hygiene officers use computerized testing equipment, so you should be comfortable with technology. You must also be detail oriented and able to understand and follow safety standards and government regulations. You will need to communicate safety instructions and concerns, as well as writing and delivering training to workers, so you should be confident about your communication skills. You'll also be designing and improving processes and procedures to make food production safe and free of hazards, so your problem-solving skills should be first-rate. Physical stamina is also a requirement. In fact, the FSIS requires that you pass a physical before employment. This is because the job requires standing for long periods and involves exposure to offensive odors and environments that may be excessively hot, cold, or humid.

How Much Can I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2016 and 2026 the growth rate for all types of occupational health and safety technicians is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average when compared to all occupations. As of May 2018, the BLS reports that the median pay for all occupational health and safety technicians in manufacturing was $49,690.

Similar Occupations

An environmental science and protection technician monitors the environment and uncovers any sources of pollution and contamination that could affect the public. You typically need an associate's degree, though some positions require a bachelor's. A construction and building inspector ensures that buildings adhere to local, national, and zoning codes and contract specifications. To become a construction and building inspector, most employers require a high school diploma and experience in construction. Fire inspectors examine buildings or forests for fire hazards and violations of state and federal fire codes. They may also investigate the causes for a fire and suggest measures to reduce potential hazards. Most inspectors have been firefighters and have at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

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