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Food Jobs: what does a Food Safety Officer do?

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4 min read
AUTHOR: Anay Mridul
A food inspector in a sterile white uniform is holding the tablet and looking at collected cookies.

Perhaps one of the most important jobs within the industry, a food safety officer inspects manufacturing processes, ensures health rules and laws are upheld, and checks whether the standard of food is safe to consume.

They can work in various food and beverage businesses in-house, or for administrators and food bodies. Apart from monitoring the quality of food, customer satisfaction and inspecting environments are both equally important.

What are the job responsibilities?

– Inspecting the quality and safety standard of food production in the supply chain

– Assessing environments where food is cooked and stored

– Maintaining pest control procedures to ensure food isn’t contaminated

– Managing complaints and investigations regarding health and food safety

– Enforcing allergen and packaging laws in the supply chain

– Issuing food safety licences and ratings for food businesses as an inspector

– Managing and delegating tasks to a team of food safety officers (in senior positions)

– Liaising with councils and administrative bodies to ensure a food business is meeting the health and safety requirements

Who might your employers be?

Food producers and manufacturers are amongst the businesses that have in-house food safety officers. New products under development that require meeting safety standards, manufacturing processes that need overseeing, and enforcing packaging regulations would all be part of inspectors’ remits.

Apart from food businesses, the most common employers of food safety officers are administrative and governmental bodies. These include the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Food Standards Agency, and – in terms of food machinery and cleanliness standards – the Health and Safety Executive.

What qualifications do you need?

Most employers require a degree related to food technology, a diploma in environmental health, and/or a certificate in food premises inspection. On top of that, depending on the exact role, some call for an accreditation with the British Pest Control Association, (BPCA) a proven understanding of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), or a minimum of Level 3 food hygiene training.

Look for courses accredited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH). Some courses of relevance for food safety officers include:

– Food Safety and Food Legislation (CertHE, University of Birmingham and Coventry University)

– Environmental Health (BSc, Cardiff Metropolitan University and Leeds Beckett University – among others)

– Food Safety, Hygiene and Management (MSc/PGDip/PGCert, University of Birmingham)

– HACCP (Foundation/Intermediate Certificate, CIEH)

– Food Hygiene/Safety (Level 3 Certificate, Nationwide Caterers Association, CIEH and BPCA)

What is the salary like?

According to Talent.com, the average salary for a food safety officer in the UK is over £39,500 per year. Entry-level positions start at about £31,000, while senior strategic or managerial roles could see up to £68,000 in yearly salary.

Where will you be working?

You will likely be working in factories, food production and manufacturing facilities and product development labs as an in-house expert. As an administrative employee, you’ll be working out of an office, but will likely be on the go to inspect different establishments and sites.

While shift work is common, you may also be working the traditional nine-to-five hours. But emergencies and incidents make weekends and odd hours a possibility. Work-from-home isn’t a possibility in most cases, as the job would require you to travel to factories or premises you need to inspect.

What’s the career progression like?

How experienced and qualified you are will determine your progression in this role. You’re likely to start as a trainee or mid-level officer, as you get to grips with the company or establishment and the area it operates in. If working in administrative bodies or large businesses, there’s scope for a move to senior levels in strategic or managerial positions.

Is there demand for this role?

With food poisoning costing the UK about £9bn annually, food safety roles attract lots of applications and the competition is generally fierce. But there is now a greater demand for higher-level roles, with Natasha’s Law magnifying the focus on allergens in food environments, as well as a renewed (and stronger) focus on food hygiene in the aftermath of COVID-19.

For more jobs in the food industry, visit Food Matters Live’s Preparing for a career in food

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