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Food Safety Specialist - Healthcare Career
Food safety is a very important issue. With an estimated 76 million Americans suffering from foodborne illnesses each year and about 5,000 deaths, the food safety specialist plays a crucial role in the health of our nation.  


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Food Safety Specialist Job Description
  Food safety specialists oversee our food supply and make sure that is wholesome and safe to eat. They use their specialized knowledge to follow government rules and regulations to achieve this goal. Most food safety specialists concentrate on just one area of the food supply industry. The field is very diverse and requires specific training in their area of expertise.

A large number of safety specialists are hired by government agencies to inspect food products, storage and food preparation areas in food service facilities or to inspect conditions in meat packing plants. They are responsible for ensuring that the full compliance of regulations that protect the public from foodborne illnesses are met.

There is also a great need for safety specialists in the field of commercial food processing. They monitor the entire processing operation, watching for potential sites of contamination. Since most foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria, cleanliness, temperature control and storage facilities are areas of great concern. The specialist needs to be well informed on all aspects of food safety regulations to ensure full compliance with government laws.

Food growers need the services and protection of Environmental Health Practitioners (EHP) who are knowledgeable in food safety. This is a fascinating field that starts with seed selection, fertilization and pest control and extends to the harvest, storage and transportation of our food supply. Food safety specialists are also hired as import inspectors to make sure that food imported into the country meets the same safety standards as food grown in the United States.

Depending on the area of specialization, working conditions will vary. It is generally not an office job, but one that requires travel and, sometimes, an uncomfortable environment. Each day will bring a new set of challenges. However, if you are looking for an interesting and rewarding healthcare career, this may be the one for you.
How Can I Become a Food Safety Specialist?
  Preparation to become a food safety specialist can begin in high school. Coursework should include the sciences, math, computer science and communications. Working in food service or with public health and environmental organizations will provide valuable experience.

The minimum college requirement is a two-year associate degree that focuses on the sciences and environmental health, but it is even better to have a bachelor’s degree in the sciences, especially food science. There are some degree programs that concentrate heavily on food safety and include sanitation, food production and handling, nutrition and quality assurance and well as biology and chemistry. It is not necessary to have a healthcare degree, but some knowledge of medical terminology is helpful.

Certification is not needed to get a job, but voluntary certification increases the opportunities for job placement. The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) offers certification after successfully completing an examination. To be eligible for the exam, one must have a bachelor’s degree with two years of clinical experience or an associate degree with four to five years of experience in the food safety field.

Advanced careers are available for those who have graduate degrees in environmental science, health risk studies, infectious diseases and agriculture. There are opportunities in food safety research for those with master’s degrees and experience in the field.
What is the Salary of a Food Safety Specialist?
  Salaries vary widely for food safety specialists depending on education, experience and employer with annual wages ranging from $35,000 to $70,000 or more.

With our growing reliance on food services, the demand for food safety specialists can only grow. It is an interesting healthcare career choice that has many opportunities for advancement.
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