A food analyst performs standardised qualitative and quantitative tests to determine the chemical and physical properties of food and drink products. Food analysts examine chemical and biological samples to identify cell structures and locate bacteria or extraneous material with the help of a microscope. They also are responsible for cleaning and sterilising laboratory equipment.
Food analyst duties
The duties of a food analyst include providing assistance to food scientists and technologists in development and research, quality control and production. Food analysts record and compile test results, prepare charts, graphs and reports, prepare and incubate slides with cell cultures, and blend, mix or cultivate ingredients to make reagents or to manufacture food or drink products. They also order supplies to maintain inventories in laboratories or in storage facilities at processing plants.
The skills required for a food analyst include quality control analysis, critical thinking, reading comprehension and science competency. Quality control analysis skills are useful for conducting tests and inspections of processes, services or products to evaluate quality or performance. Critical thinking skills are helpful for using logic and reasoning to identify strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions. Reading comprehension skills are useful for understanding written sentences in work-related documents. Science competency is important to be able to use scientific methods and rules to solve problems. A food analyst should also have communications and deductive reasoning skills in order to listen, understand and communicate effectively in speaking and writing, as well as to be able to apply general rules to specific problems.
The qualifications necessary for becoming a food analyst include two years of specialised training or a degree in applied science or science-related technology. Some employers may require a graduate degree in biology, forensic science or chemistry. Workersoften acquire on-the-job training to supplement their educational background.
Food analysts generally work in a wide variety of conditions. Some work indoors in laboratories and most work a standard 30 to 40 hour week. Some work irregular hours to monitor experiments that cannot be conducted during normal business hours. Though most food analysts work indoors, there are some who work outdoors.
A food analyst should have knowledge of chemical testing or analytical procedures, quantitative research methods, biological research techniques, quality assurance techniques and government regulations. Food analysts should also know health or sanitation standards, scientific research methodology, microbiological procedures, mathematics and statistics. A food analyst should be able to analyse biological research tests, conduct standardised laboratory analyses, perform statistical analyses and identify the nutritional values of foods.
As of 2014, the average annual salary of a food analyst was around £20,000 per year, according to the UK government's National Careers Service.