Food safety inspector

A food safety inspector


Food safety inspectors carry out inspections in food processing environments from a food safety standpoint. They are part of official control bodies who check and control food products and processes to ensure compliance with regulations and laws governing safety and health.

The duties of a food safety inspector typically include, but are not limited to:

  • Conducting routine inspections of food establishments to ensure they are following health and safety regulations
  • Investigating complaints and reports of foodborne illnesses
  • Educating food establishment owners and employees on proper food handling and safety procedures
  • Collecting and analyzing food samples to test for harmful bacteria or contaminants
  • Preparing and issuing citations or fines for violations of food safety regulations
  • Maintaining accurate records of inspection findings and enforcement actions
  • Providing expert testimony in court cases related to food safety violations.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to food safety inspector:

food quality inspector
quality controller
food safety officer
quality inspector

Working conditions

Food safety inspectors typically work for government agencies at the federal, state, or local level. They may work in a variety of settings, including restaurants, grocery stores, and food processing plants. This job may require some travel to conduct inspections at various locations. Inspectors may be required to work evenings, weekends, or holidays to accommodate the hours of operation of the establishments they are inspecting.

Minimum qualifications

To become a food safety inspector, a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as food science, nutrition, or public health is typically required. Some employers may also require a master’s degree in a related field. Candidates may also need to complete specialized training programs in food safety and pass a certification exam. Relevant work experience in food service, food safety, or a related field is also often required. Good communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work independently are essential for success in this role.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Food safety inspector is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Food safety inspector career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to food safety inspector.

food analyst
green coffee coordinator
food regulatory advisor
food production planner
green coffee buyer

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of food safety inspector. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of food safety inspector with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

food production engineer
botanicals specialist
animal feed nutritionist
food production manager
food and beverage packaging technologist

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of food safety inspector.

  • Legislation about animal origin products: The applicable legal rules on temperature, waste materials, traceability, labelling, trading, and the transport of animal origin products.
  • Foodborne diseases: Understand foodborne illnesses and poisoning as to prevent public health problems.
  • Health, safety and hygiene legislation: The set of health, safety and hygiene standards and items of legislation applicable in a specific sector.
  • Food safety principles: Scientific background of food safety which includes preparation, handling, and storage of food to minimise the risk of foodborne illness and other health hazards.
  • Food toxicity: The causes of food poisoning and spoilage, and the preservation methods of food products so as to prevent toxicity from customers.
  • Cultural practices regarding animal parts sorting: The religious and cultural practices regarding animal parts sorting as to not mix meat parts with other parts that may inhibit religion practitioners from eating the meat.
  • Food legislation: Legislation related to the food and feed industry including food manufacturing, hygiene, safety, raw materials, additives, GMOs, labelling, environmental and trade regulations.
  • European food safety policy: Assurance of a high level of food safety within the EU through coherent farm-to-table measures and adequate monitoring, while ensuring an effective internal market. The implementation of this approach involves various actions, namely:
    • assure effective control systems and evaluate compliance with EU standards in the food safety and quality, within the EU and in third countries in relation to their exports to the EU;
    • manage international relations with third countries and international organisations concerning food safety;
    • manage relations with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and ensure science-based risk management.
  • Risks associated to physical, chemical, biological hazards in food and beverages: Interpretation of laboratory tests for parameters affecting food safety taking into account risks associated with physical, chemical, and biological hazards in food and beverages.
  • Quality assurance methodologies: Quality assurance principles, standard requirements, and the set of processes and activities used for measuring, controlling and ensuring the quality of products and processes.
  • Cultural practices regarding animal slaughter: Understand cultural or religious rules and traditions regarding the slaughter of animals.
  • Food and beverage industry: The respective industry and the processes involved in the food and beverage industry, such as raw material selection, processing, packaging, and storage.
  • Laboratory-based sciences: Laboratory based sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics, integrated science or advanced laboratory science.
  • Food safety standards: Food safety standards (i.e. ISO 22000) developed by the recognised organisations for Standardization dealing with food safety. For example, the ISO 22000 international standard specifies the requirements for an effective food safety management system. It covers interactive communication, system management, prerequisite programs and HACCP principles.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of food safety inspector.

  • Give instructions to staff: Give instructions to subordinates by employing various communication techniques. Adjust communication style to the target audience in order to convey instructions as intended.
  • Set quality assurance objectives: Define quality assurance targets and procedures and see to their maintenance and continued improvement by reviewing targets, protocols, supplies, processes, equipment and technologies for quality standards.
  • Manage health and safety standards: Oversee all personnel and processes to comply with health, safety and hygiene standards. Communicate and support alignment of these requirements with the company’s health and safety programmes.
  • Manage communications with food industry governmental bodies: Managing communications with regulatory authorities for the food industry for all aspects of food safety, limits on potentially hazardous ingredients, labelling requirements and legislation.
  • Apply haccp: Apply regulations regarding manufacture of food and food safety compliance. Employ food safety procedures based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).
  • Maintain relationships with government agencies: Establish and maintain cordial working relationships with peers in different governmental agencies.
  • Identify hazards in the workplace: Perform safety audits and inspections on workplaces and workplace equipment. Ensure that they meet safety regulations and identify hazards and risks.
  • Manage the use of additives in food manufacturing: Managing the use of additives or preservatives for food.
  • Analyse samples of food and beverages: Examine if food or beverages are safe for human consumption. Verify the right levels of key ingredients and the correctness of the label declarations and the levels of nutrients present. Ensure samples of food and beverages comply to specific standards or procedures.
  • Ensure correct goods labelling: Ensure that goods are labeled with all necessary labeling information (e.g. legal, technological, hazardous and others) regarding the product. Ensure that labels respects the legal requirements and adhere to regulations.
  • Perform inspection analysis: Investigate and report on inspection procedures, techniques, equipment and materials.
  • Write routine reports: Compose routine reports; identify appropriate forms or documents to record data from manual inspections and/or electronic systems. Write clear observations as required. A written report is usually a summary of readings from the routine performance of the reticulation system.
  • Assess food samples: Assess samples from a range of sources to draw analyses. For example, microorganisms detection, chemical analysis, and parasitological analysis.
  • Perform food safety checks: Carry out food safety checks in order to assure compliance with requirements, regulations, and other good food manufacturing practices.
  • Maintain updated professional knowledge: Regularly attend educational workshops, read professional publications, actively participate in professional societies.
  • Advocate for consumer matters in production plants: Conduct regulatory oversight activities inside plants in matters relating to areas of consumer matters, e.g. misbranding, consumer protection, etc.
  • Assess HACCP implementation in plants: Assess the adequate implementation of HACCP in plants. Assure that plants are operating within the specifications of their written plans for HACCP, sanitation, and processing.
  • Apply requirements concerning manufacturing of food and beverages: Apply and follow national, international, and internal requirements quoted in standards, regulations and other specifications related with manufacturing of food and beverages.
  • Apply GMP: Apply regulations regarding manufacture of food and food safety compliance. Employ food safety procedures based on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
  • Consider economic criteria in decision making: Develop proposals and take appropriate decisions taking into account economic criteria.
  • Work in cold environments: Work in cold storage and deep freeze facilities. Cooling rooms are around 0°C. Resist temperatures of -18°C in meat processing freezer facilities as required by law, except for the slaughterhouse, where room working temperatures are below 12°C by law.
  • Perform quality audits: Execute regular, systematic and documented examinations of a quality system for verifying conformity with a standard based on objective evidence such as the implementation of processes, effectiveness in achieving quality goals and reduction and elimination of quality problems.
  • Identify the factors causing changes in food during storage: recognize the most relevant factors (chemical, physical, environmental etc) that can alter the food during its storage
  • Keep up-to-date with regulations: Maintain up-to-date knowledge of current regulations and apply this knowledge in specific sectors.
  • Lead inspections: Lead inspections and the protocol involved, such as introducing the inspection team, explaining the purpose of the inspection, performing the inspection, requesting documents, asking appropriate questions, and maintaining a high level of professionalism when investigating subjects.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of food safety inspector. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Food homogenisation: The procedures, machines and recipes used to mix different foodstuffs and solutions by transforming them through high pressure and acceleration processes into an uniform fluid or product.
  • Food policy: Have a solid understanding of policies, strategies, institutions and regulations concerning food.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of food safety inspector. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Manage challenging work conditions during food processing operations: Handle stressful and challenging work conditions in a limited time frame to ensure qualitative food and beverage products are created in time.
  • Check the quality of raw materials at reception: Check the quality of raw materials by assessing its taste, smell, colour, or any other characteristic depending on the product.
  • Check bottles for packaging: Check bottles for packaging. Apply bottle testing procedures to verify if the bottle is fit for containing food and beverage products. Follow legal or company specifications for bottling.
  • Communicate commercial and technical issues in foreign languages: Speak one or more foreign languages in order to communicate commercial and technical issues with various suppliers and clients.
  • Be at ease in unsafe environments: Be at ease in unsafe environments like being exposed to dust, rotating equipment, hot surfaces, sub-freezing and cold storage areas, noise, wet floors and moving lift equipment.
  • Develop food policy: Participate in the decision-making around production and processing techniques, marketing, availability, utilization and consumption of food, in the interest of meeting or furthering social objectives to influence the operation of the food and agriculture system. Food policymakers engage in activities such as regulation of food-related industries, establishing eligibility standards for food assistance programs for the poor, ensuring safety of the food supply, food labeling, and even the qualifications of a product to be considered organic.
  • Apply foreign language for international trade: Communicate in foreign languages to facilitate international trade operations such as the importation of food and beverages.
  • Follow hygienic procedures during food processing: Ensure a clean working space according to hygienic standards in the food processing industry.
  • Assess environmental parameters at the workplace for food products: Assess environmental parameters such as temperature and humidity at the workplace for food products. Assure suitable conditions for production processes, plants, laboratories, as well as storages.
  • Handle communications in the food processing industry: Interact with food processing professionals to obtain correct information about their work and actions.
  • Assess quality characteristics of food products: Assess quality characteristics of food products in terms of the main properties (e.g. physical, sensorial, chemical, technological, etc.) for raw materials, half-finished products, as well as finish products.
  • Investigate customer complaints: Investigate customer complaints in order to determine the non-satisfactory elements in food products that lead to complaints from customers.
  • Work in a food processing team: Collaborate in a team with other food processing professionals in service of the food and beverages industry.
  • Analyse characteristics of food products at reception: Analyse characteristics, composition, and other properties of food products at reception.
  • Liaise with managers: Liaise with managers of other departments ensuring effective service and communication, i.e. sales, planning, purchasing, trading, distribution and technical.
  • Interpret data in food manufacturing: Interpret data from different sources, like market data, scientific papers, and customers requirements in order to research development and innovation in food sector.
  • Label samples: Label raw material/ product samples for laboratory checks, according to implemented quality system.

ISCO group and title

3257 – Environmental and occupational health inspectors and associates

  1. Food safety inspector – ESCO
  2. Food Safety Inspector Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
  3. Food Inspector | Food Safety and Inspection Service
  4. Featured image: By Slayym – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Last updated on April 25, 2023

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