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Food Inspector Certification

by Stephanie Dube Dwilson

A food inspector is typically only required to have food industry experience or a college education, but obtaining national certification can increase your odds of getting the job or being promoted. Food inspectors have the important job of inspecting the day-to-day operations of slaughter facilities, meat and egg processing plants, making sure that the food produced is safe for human consumption.

Food Inspector Requirements

Food inspectors may work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state governments or private food processing units. The requirements for these jobs vary from employer to employer. The USDA is one of the largest employers, employing about 7,500 food inspectors across the country at the time of publication. To work as a food inspector for the USDA, an applicant should have a related bachelor's degree or one year of food industry experience, pass a written USDA exam and pass a pre-employment physical.

NEHA Certification

Receiving food inspector certification from the National Environmental Health Association can increase a person's chances of standing out from a pool of food inspector job applicants or getting a raise down the road. The certification is as a Certified Professional - Food Safety and is geared toward people whose primary job is in the field of food safety and inspection. The certification requires expertise in the FDA's hazard analysis and critical points system, food microbiology, food inspection regulation, along with problem solving skills.

Eligibility for Certification

To be eligible to take the CP-FS exam, you must either qualify through the degree track or the experience track. The degree track requires either a bachelor's degree in food science or environmental health from an accredited university, or any bachelor's degree with two years of experience in food safety. The experience track requires passage of a food manager exam, along with either an associates degree plus four years of food-related work experience or a high school diploma and five years of food-related work experience. In addition, all applicants have to fill out the NEHA application and pay the examination fee.

Passing the Exam

Exam takers must score 75 percent or higher to pass the CP-FS exam and be certified as a food inspector. The exam consists of 120 multiple-choice questions and is two hours long. The test covers eight content areas, including causes and prevention of food-borne illness, food safety inspection practices, reviewing food process facilities, special needs, food safety law, consumer awareness, sample collection, and pest control. To pass the exam, the NEHA recommends purchasing a study package and taking a review course. The course is 10 hours long and includes online review questions.

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