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How Do I Become a Food Safety Inspector?

Food safety inspectors make sure canned goods are properly sealed to prevent bacteria.
Using proper methods to defrost meat is important for food safety.
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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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Food safety inspectors conduct walk-throughs of restaurants, grocery stores, and processing plants to ensure that foods are stored and prepared in accordance with national codes. They take note of violations and inform employees and owners of how they can come into compliance. The education and training requirements to become a food safety inspector vary between countries and regions, but most professionals need to obtain college degrees, pass certification exams, and complete formal, on-the-job training programs. With the appropriate credentials, an individual can get a job as a food safety inspector in a government agency or a private consulting company.

If you want to become a food safety inspector, you can prepare for the job by developing strong communication and leadership skills. Inspectors need to be able to clearly explain violations and policies to restaurant staff to ensure they understand problems and the importance of correcting them. Many professionals provide scheduled and impromptu training seminars to teach workers how to correct and prevent issues. A food safety inspector also needs to have a keen eye for detail, since even the subtlest code violations can potentially result in contaminated food and sick customers.

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There are a number of university degree programs that will help you prepare for this job. Some schools offer bachelor's degrees specifically in food safety, but you can also benefit from a biology, agriculture, or health program. As an undergraduate, take the opportunity to learn about the science and history behind food safety. Classes in environmental science, organic chemistry, and disease pathology are also helpful. You'll only need a bachelor's degree to work in a food safety position in most settings, though you may choose to pursue a master's degree to improve your credentials and chances of finding employment.

After earning a degree, look into local and online training courses to get voluntary certification. It is important to choose a program that is accredited by a regional or national governing board, such as the Food Safety Inspection Service in the United States. In order to obtain a position in government, you may need to pass a certification exam administered directly by the appropriate government agency.

Once you get hired as a food safety inspector, you can expect to spend several weeks attending specialized classes and observing experienced workers to learn about specific policies and procedures. In time, you can earn the right to travel independently to different food establishments within a set geographic area. It is common for inspectors to attend regular refresher courses and seminars throughout their careers to learn about the latest research on food safety and new guidelines.

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