In the United States alone, over twenty-five percent of all meals that people consume are prepared in a restaurant or commercial processing plant. Americans are relying more on others to prepare the food that they put into their body than any other country in the world. The more we rely on others to prepare our food, the more we need food safety specialists.
A food safety specialist, commonly referred to as an environment health practitioner, helps to ensure that the food we consume is safe. With the Centers for Disease Control reporting that there are over 75 million Americans affected by food-borne illnesses each year, jobs as food safety specialists are becoming one of the hottest career fields to pursue.
What the Job Entails
A food safety specialist ensures the quality and safety of the food supply. There are a number of specific food aspects of production, such as safe meat handling, vegetable packaging, and other areas that many specialists pursue. It is not uncommon for an environment health practitioner working as a food safety specialist to focus on one niche of food production or manufacturing.
Many food safety specialists work for the government as inspectors or a food producer that relies on its safety specialists to maintain compliance with federal regulations. The focus of the job is safety and keeping food free from contamination.
If you have a sensitive stomach or get squeamish when you see something unpleasant, a career in food safety may not be the path you want to take. Most food safety specialists work on the back end of food production and see things that some of us would prefer not to know. Food safety specialists are inspectors and the nature of the job takes place in food processing plants and factories. Some of these plants can be extremely cold and some hot. Many are noisy and even messy.
The specialist may be required to wear protective eyewear and clothing, including a hair net and gloves. Inspectors in this field are often on their feet most working hours and moving around a majority of the time. Picking up heavy boxes or moving equipment may be a part of the job.
To qualify for a career in food safety, specifically as a food safety specialist, it is necessary to earn a four-year college degree in a food science or scientific major. Some states require an examination be passed in order to receive certification as an environmental health practitioner or EHP.
In high school courses in math, science and English should be taken as a lot of writing and scientific study is required of the job. Volunteering in the food service industry provides great experience in food safety issues and compliance.
In college, a major in biology, chemistry or environmental health is perfect in laying a foundation for a career in food safety. Summer internships working for food processing plants may be available in your area and provide experience and exposure to employment in the field. Also, working in the food service industry provides experience to the general rules of safety and compliance.