Food Service Sanitarian

Current job prospects can be daunting for many graduates who are searching for stable and financially sound careers.  Employment across the industry sectors is varied, but health related services and government jobs offer the ability to give back to the community and gain peace of mind for the future.  Public health services employment offers not only a stable work environment, but also a number of specialties to appeal to individual interests.

Food service sanitarian is just one job option that can be found on a state and local level.  This position within the public health department can offer you a way to advance your future prospects while also ensuring that the community maintains health and safety.  If you are looking for an entry level position that can also allow you to grow, then a job as a food service sanitarian could be a good fit.

What Is A Food Service Sanitarian?

A food service sanitarian performs inspections on facilities that serve and prepare food for public consumption to ensure that proper safety precautions and procedures are being utilized.  This would include evaluating equipment and personnel training in places such as restaurants, hotels, schools, and hospitals or other healthcare facilities.  Specifically, a food services sanitarian is evaluating the environment in which the food is prepared and the manner in which it is stored and prepared.

Food service sanitarians not only consider legal compliance in issuing citations, but will also document incidence of infraction should any health issues arise in the public due to the lack of compliance.  Food service sanitarians will further offer advice and suggestions to correct the issues.  They may also go over technical and design plans for facilities to further chances of adhering to food health and safety expectations.

Some of the duties you will be expected to perform as a food services sanitarian will include:

  •   Inspecting preparation and storage areas for foods that are intended for public consumption.
  •   Monitoring water sources that are in food preparation facilities.
  •   Observing and interviewing the staff of a food preparation facility.
  •   Investigating outbreaks that occur within the public and may be linked to a common source.
  •   Testing bacteriological and chemical levels in food preparation areas.

Characteristics

Food service sanitarians will also need a number of personal and professional skills in order to accomplish their jobs:

  •   Communication:  You will need to gather narrative information as well as statistical data in order to complete your evaluations.
  •   Legal knowledge:  Understanding and knowledge of current laws about food safety and public health are imperative for you to be able to do your job. 
  •   Observational skills:  Along with inspecting specific equipment and processes, you will also need to pay attention to the environment and the processes around you. 
  •   Professionalism:  You will need to handle writing citations and disciplinary action with diplomacy, courtesy, and clarity. 
  •   Critical thinking:  When investigating outbreaks, you will need to be able to work deductively in order to isolate sources and causes of illness..

Nature Of The Work

Whether a food services sanitarian works on the local, state, or federal level, much of the job will be spent traveling to different facilities and businesses and conducting inspections on site.  This will involve testing equipment and interacting with staff as well as observing general habits.  In some cases citations are written out on the spot.  Other times, you will be required to organize and evaluate your notes before making a decision.

In either case, you will also be required to officially document the incident and generate a report.  This will also include your suggestions for change.  If you are investigating an outbreak of a possible food borne pathogen, you may also be required to investigate at the treating health facilities, and interview individuals who have been affected.  This may require further investigative work to track down the source of contamination and proceed with facility evaluations

Education And Training

Most food service sanitarians can gain an entry level position with a four year undergraduate degree.  Your studies should focus on biology and microbiology, as well as hygienic practices, food services, and sanitation technology.  You will also require at least 30 hours of experiential practice.  This may be offered as part of the coursework or may need to be completed independently. 

You will also need to complete training as a state health official, and prerequisite to examination will vary based on location.  The civil servants examination is another requirement, and your grade can affect the capacity in which you are hired as well as your pay grade.

At an entry level for this position, you can expect to start out between $25,000 to $35,000 for your yearly salary.  Higher test scores on the civil servants exam or a greater amount of experience will have an effect upon raising this number.  This position is highly in demand in both rural and urban areas and has a steady to above average growth rate as a career.  It is expected that as much as a 10% increase in employment will occur in this field in the next ten years, which makes food service sanitarian a good job for you if you are just entering into public health.


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