What Does a Consumer Safety Officer Do?

Mary McMahon

A consumer safety officer (CSO) looks out for the welfare of the general public by inspecting regulated products and services for regulatory compliance. One agency known for its team of consumer safety officers is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, tasked with regulating and monitoring the nation's food and drug supplies. Work in this field can be diverse and demanding, and usually requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree in science, technology, or a related field.

The Food and Drug Administration sets strict hygiene and safety protocols for dairy processing and bottling plants.
The Food and Drug Administration sets strict hygiene and safety protocols for dairy processing and bottling plants.

When members of the public file complaints, the consumer safety officer reviews them and determines how to proceed. Part of the work can include sorting through nuisance complaints to find valid consumer reports that need further investigation. The representative of the agency may travel to a facility to review manufacturing practices, can order tests on a product for look for signs of contamination, and may take other measures as part of an investigation. Careful documentation at each step of the process is also important, as this may be necessary in the event of a court case.

In the event a consumer safety officer uncovers a regulatory violation, the official can take action against the offender. It may be possible to temporarily shut down a facility until it addresses the issue. Fines can also be collected. Lawsuits are also a possibility, in which case the consumer safety officer may be called upon to testify. Suits can be filed by the government as well as members of the public harmed by a faulty product.

Government agencies, businesses, and other interested parties can consult a consumer safety officer if they have questions about the regulatory process. The outreach and education component of this job can include meeting with organizations as they undergo regulatory evaluation or prepare for activities like submitting a new drug for government approval. Education can help reduce the load on government agencies by helping companies submit complete and accurate applications that do not need to be returned for a second submission and review.

These government employees may travel as part of their work, to inspect facilities and meet with people who need consulting services. They may also attend conferences and other events to keep up with activities in industries of interest, and to develop their own professional skills. Employers provide compensation for work-related travel and may offer assistance for travel related to professional development. This assistance can include time off from work, per diem allowances for housing and food, and coverage of conference or event fees, in some cases.

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