A food analyst performs standardized qualitative and quantitative tests to determine the chemical and physical properties of food and beverage 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 sterilizing laboratory equipment.
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 beverage products. They also must order supplies to maintain inventories in laboratories or in storage facilities of processing plants.
The skills required of 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 oral comprehension, oral expression, written expression 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 specialized training or an associate's degree in applied science or science-related technology. Some employers may require a bachelor's degree in biology, forensic science or chemistry. Some institutions offer certificates, while others offer associate's degrees. Workers with associate's degrees often 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 work a standard 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, the metric system, and mathematics and statistics. A food analyst should be able to analyze biological research tests, conduct standardized laboratory analyses, perform statistical analyses, and identify the nutritional values of foods.
As of 2009, the average annual salary of a food analyst was $27,165, and the salary range for the position was between $20,552 and $38,349, according to CB Salary.