An agricultural inspector ensures the foods and animals we eat are free of disease. He also makes sure these products meet standards for quality and freshness, which vary for fruit, vegetable, dairy, meat and poultry products. His job is important to the quality and safety of both domestic and imported food.
Laws and regulations governing the safety of food products are imposed at regional and national levels and vary by country. These regulations are adjusted accordingly as conditions change and concerns arise. The guidelines can change seasonally, or a product initially deemed safe can suddenly be pulled from the market should a parasite or disease be suspected of infestation. The processing facilities through which the products pass are inspected as thoroughly as the products themselves.
An agricultural inspector must normally conduct several inspections of a facility, its surrounding areas and its products. His job may alter as the threats of invasive and destructive pests and disease change. Maintaining meticulous and timely records of his findings is imperative to the safety of the public. Keeping informed on updated standards and regulations is also an important part of the inspector’s job.
To perform effective site inspections, an agricultural inspector often employs thorough, random sampling. This may include taking indiscriminate samples of fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry and having them tested for diseases and abnormalities at a laboratory specializing in food analysis.
In addition to product sampling, the environment in which the products are grown or raised must be tested. This scrutiny checks for unacceptable feeding systems, substandard medical care or inadequate testing of animals. Such investigation also helps makes sure fruits, grains and vegetables are shipped in proper packaging or containers free of chemicals or pests.
An agricultural inspector’s success depends on his attention to detail and dedication to protecting the public from disease caused by ingesting contaminated or inferior products. Highly-developed communication skills are necessary, as he is required to extensively interact with farmers, food brokers and regulating agencies. Good organizational abilities are also helpful.
To be eligible for the job, an inspector generally needs a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science or a closely related field. In some cases, relevant experience in a similar industry, coupled with coursework in biology or agricultural science is acceptable. In either case, he will be required to study regional and national inspection procedures and pass the certification tests required by his particular country before becoming an agricultural inspector.