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Food Inspectors
Significant Points

This series includes positions that involve the inspection of slaughter, processing, packaging, shipping, and storing of meat and meat products, poultry and poultry products, fish and fish products, meat products derived from equines, and food establishments engaged in these activities in order to determine compliance with law and regulations that establish standards for the protection of the consumer by assuring them that products distributed to them are wholesome, not adulterated, and properly marked, labeled and packaged. Performance of the work in this series requires the knowledge of normal conditions in live and slaughtered meat, poultry, and fish; of standards of wholesomeness and sanitation of meat, poultry and fish products; and of the processing and sanitation practices of the food production industry or industries inspected.

Nature of the Work

The food inspection occupation covers both meat and poultry slaughter inspection; and meat, poultry, and fish processing inspection. The meat and poultry inspection program of the Federal Government is established under legislation that requires that all meat and poultry products in interstate commerce be wholesome, not adulterated, and properly marked, labeled, and packaged. Legislation also requires that meat, poultry, and meat and poultry products in intrastate commerce be inspected by State authorities in accordance with standards that are equal to those established by the Federal Government for interstate commerce. In the absence of an effective State inspection program equal to the Federal program, the Federal Government can assume responsibility for the inspection of meat and poultry products in intrastate commerce on its own authority, or at the request of the State.

Slaughter inspection

Slaughter inspection involves inspecting the slaughter of beef, calves, swine, sheep, goats, and equines (which are known as red meat); and inspecting the slaughter of poultry, largely chicken, ducks, geese, and turkeys (although rabbits also come under the definition of poultry inspection). The basic processes in the inspection of red meat slaughter and poultry slaughter are the same. Ante-mortem inspection involves a visual examination of the live animal or poultry prior to slaughter in order to determine that its appearance and behavior present nothing that appears abnormal. Postmortem slaughter inspection involves the determination that no pathological conditions render the product unfit to eat; that the product has not become contaminated in the course of the slaughter; and that the product is handled, stored, and packaged in a sanitary manner so as to keep it wholesome and fit for human consumption. The major differences between meat and poultry inspection are in the techniques used in passing or rejecting the products presented for inspection.

Red meat slaughter inspection

Red meat slaughter is carried out in slaughter and packing houses. These tend to specialize in beef slaughter, swine slaughter, or veal and lamb slaughter, although there are some packing houses which slaughter more than one species of animals. The packing houses vary in size from those that operate on a full eight-hour basis slaughtering a large number of animals (e.g., 700 per hour) to those that slaughter a relatively small number per day one or two days a week. Inspection of animals in either of these types of slaughter house is essentially the same. There is visual ante-mortem inspection of the live animals, carried out by the inspector, in order to determine that they are in a normal and healthy condition. Food inspectors assigned to slaughter inspection are trained to recognize abnormalities in appearance and behavior of the live animal. Any animals which they consider to be suspicious from the point of view of perfect health are held for examination by a Veterinary Medical Officer.

Post-mortem inspection consists of a visual and tactile and/or incisory inspection of the head, viscera, carcass, and offal in order to determine (1) that no pathological conditions are present, and (2) that the carcass is in a clean and wholesome condition. In large plants where slaughter is done on an assembly line basis, inspection stations are established on the line for head, viscera, and carcass inspection, while inspection of the edible offal (liver, heart, brain and tripe) takes place in the offal preparation room. In smaller plant's that do not operate on an assembly-line basis, a single inspector may carry out all four inspection processes described above.

Poultry inspection

Because of the nature of the operation, poultry slaughter is generally carried out on an assembly-line basis. Food inspectors make an ante-mortem inspection of the poultry in the cage prior to slaughter. After the poultry has been slaughtered, singed, and eviscerated, each carcass passes before an inspector who examines the viscera and the body to assure that there are no evidences of pathology. Working with him is a plant employee who, at his instruction, trims those carcasses which he feels require trimming before being passed for human consumption.


The red meat inspector does not have authority to condemn an entire carcass but does have authority to condemn parts of it. If he finds any evidence of abnormal conditions or contamination which cannot be corrected by trimming, he retains the carcass in a sealed or locked cage for final inspection by a Veterinary Medical Officer who has the authority either to condemn or to pass the suspected carcass.

The poultry inspector, on the other hand, does have the authority to condemn individual carcasses as not fit for human consumption. The difference between the authority of the two inspectors in this respect stems primarily from economic considerations.

Neither meat nor poultry slaughter inspectors have the responsibility themselves for trimming meat or poultry carcasses or carrying out any other function that is normally done at the plant. They do not deal with individual employees, but give instructions to foremen and to plant management to assure that the actions they wish to have carried out are carried out. In addition to the inspection of the product carcasses, the food inspector in charge of a slaughter plant is also responsible for assuring that the plant is maintained in a clean and sanitary fashion, and that plant employees are wearing proper clothing so as to avoid contamination of the product. Inspectors in-charge must as sure that the premises meet basic sanitary requirements in terms of cleanliness, that employees' lockers are cleaned, that there is no infestation of rats or other vermin, etc. Inspectors in-charge, and subordinate inspectors under their direction, carry out continual inspection of the physical plant and call to the attention of management deficiencies such as rusty rails, cracks Increment, leaking ceilings, floors that are unsanitary, and any other conditions in the plant that might contaminate the product.

The inspector-in-charge deals with plant management in order to assure that unsatisfactory conditions are remedied and that the plant is maintained in a wholesome and sanitary fashion. Some of these conditions require immediate remedy for unsatisfactory conditions; others require that the inspector-in-charge work with plant management to develop long-range plans for improvement of physical conditions in the plant. He examines plans for replacement of equipment, redesign of work space and any other proposal that will affect the general sanitary condition of the plant, and he makes recommendations for their modification or approval. His recommendations are from the point of view of accessibility for cleaning, maintaining general sanitation, and avoiding conditions that might lead to product contamination.

Processing inspection

Processing inspection is essentially quite different from slaughter inspection. By and large, the processed meat, poultry, and fish products are those in which the meat, poultry, or fish has changed its identity as it is incorporated into a processed product. Processed products range from hamburger and ground beef, chicken rolls, turkey rolls, frozen fish fillets, and fish portions, to the more complex foods, such as frozen dinners including meat, poultry, or fish, canned soups, stews, meat and chicken pies, crab cakes, cooked and uncooked sausage, cured and smoked products, refined lard and shortening.

Food Inspectors (Processed Products) are responsible for inspecting all products arriving in the processing plants for wholesomeness and to assure that the meat and poultry are from inspected plants. They inspect all products which will end up in the final processed product; that is, vegetables, cereals, spices, eggs, and all other ingredients used in the final product in addition to the meat, poultry, or fish. They assure that the finished processed product has been handled in an acceptable sanitary manner throughout the processing in the plant. This involves inspecting to me sure that the plant meets general sanitary requirements and regulations, that the equipment is cleaned and maintained in accordance with regulations and approved practices and that no conditions that might be potential sanitary hazards exist, Food Inspectors (Processed Products) are also responsible for assuring that processed products are manufactured in accordance with approved procedures, that all ingredients are identified through all phases of the process, that all products are correctly labeled and not adulterated. All labels for processed products must be approved by the inspection authority. In most establishments, the food inspector-in- charge works with management in developing the statements on the label, the description of the formula, and the process itself.

Inspection of processed meat, poultry, and fish products differs from slaughter inspection in that generally it is not a continuous inspection, but takes place on a sample basis at random intervals, since the nature of processed food products varies considerably, inspection objectives, procedures, and timing vary among plants. Food Inspectors (Processed Products) inspect at critical stages of production to assure:

  • compliance with regulations concerning percentages and proportions of fat, water, breading, and added cereals;
  • that items whose use is restricted by law or regulations, such as nitrates and nitrites, phosphates and anti-oxidants are present in no more than the authorized quantities or proportions in the final product;
  • compliance with labels, formulae, and stated descriptions of manufacturing processes;
  • general wholesomeness and freedom from contamination;
  • compliance with regulations and standards for maintenance and cleaning.
  • Some plants that have an unusually high volume or complexity of products and a variety of product lines have instituted quality control programs to assure compliance with their own requirements and specifications as well as with Federal requirements. When these quality control programs, which are usually based upon statistical methods of sampling and analysis, been approved by the inspection authority, they serve as the basis for the Federal inspection program. The food inspector has the objective of assuring that plant management is adhering to its own quality control program and procedures as approved. He inspects the plant for general cleanliness and sanitation, and deals with management to improve the physical facilities and equipment. He reviews the records and findings of the plant's quality control staff in terms of the mutually agreed upon provisions of the quality control program, and manufacturing processes as administered by plant management.

    Food Inspector, GS-1863-05


    Food inspectors at grade GS-5 receive training in the objectives, methods and techniques of meat, poultry, and fish inspection. They are instructed in the provisions of food inspection laws, regulations, manuals, and inspection procedures.

    GS-5 food inspectors are assigned to slaughter inspection and/or processed food inspection. In slaughter inspection work, they receive a combination of on-the-job training and organized instruction in such areas as ante-mortem, and post-mortem inspection of meat and poultry slaughter. As they progress in their training, they are assigned to inspection stations where they carry out the inspection function under the close supervision of Food Inspectors (Slaughter) of higher grade. They are trained in the techniques of inspection of the live animals, how to detect abnormalities in heads, viscera, and carcasses that would render the meat or poultry unfit for human consumption.

    Food inspectors at grade GS-5 who are assigned to processing inspection work also receive on-the-job training and classroom instruction in the general theories and principles of food sanitation, food processing, inspection of processing operations, and on the theories and principles of public health sanitation as it applies to food processing. As they progress in their training, they are assigned to food processing inspection work in cooperating plants where they carry out inspections under Food Inspectors (Processed Products) of higher grade.

    Level of responsibility

    Food inspectors at grade GS-5 work under the detailed step-by-step supervision of experienced food inspectors. They carry out the inspection processes to which they are assigned under the close observation of an experienced inspector who reviews their actions and corrects errors on the spot.

    Food Inspector, GS-1863-07

    This is the first full working level of food inspection in both slaughter and processed Products work. GS-7 food inspectors carry out one or more aspects of food inspection in situations that require the inspector to exercise judgment in the full range of inspection functions.

    Nature of work assignments

    Food Inspector (Slaughter)

    Food Inspectors (Slaughter) at grade GS-7 inspect animals and poultry before slaughter, during slaughter, and in associated departments after leaving the slaughter floor.

    This inspection involves antemortem inspection; all phases of post- mortem inspection, including complete inspection in the edible offal and inedible tasking areas; inspection of the handling of the products in coolers, freezers, storage areas, shipping docks; and inspection of the plant for general sanitary conditions and for potential sanitary hazards.

    In poultry slaughter plants, GS-7 Food Inspectors (Slaughter) may also inspect the packaging and labeling of whole or cut-up parts of poultry, chilling and freezing, and other related activities that do not involve the cooking and processing of poultry and are closely related to the activities of the poultry slaughter plant.

    Food Inspector (Processed Products)

    Food Inspectors (Processed Products) at grade GS-7 inspect meat, poultry, and fish products in plants that carry out processing procedures such as preparation of raw products, defrosting, boning, or freezing of edible meat, poultry or fish products, in line with the instructions relating to the manufacturing and processing methods and equipment. Such inspections require overseeing the full range of processing operations at the plant by means of detailed inspection of each step of the manufacturing process in which meat and poultry or edible parts thereof are combined with other ingredients according to a specified formula and processed by various methods.

    Food Inspectors (Processed Products) determine that the product is handled according to approved methods. They assure the wholesomeness of all ingredients entering into the finished product, including any which are not derived from meat, poultry, or fish such as vegetables, spices, cereals, vegetable protein, and flavorings.

    GS-7 inspectors check the meat, poultry, and fish that is received into the plant for cleanliness, decomposition, contamination, or damage in transit or storage. Food Inspectors (Processed Products) GS-7 supervise label and formulation compliance to assure that inspected products and their ingredients conform in kind and quantity to approved formula. They make frequent examinations to verify that the net weights and the uniformity of fresh, or frozen products meet requirements.

    GS-7 food inspectors of all specializations make sanitary inspections of assigned plants to determine that sanitary requirements and regulations are being fulfilled. This includes inspection of plant facilities and equipment to assure that they are kept clean and maintained in the condition appropriate for the purpose for which they are intended, for example:

  • that equipment and utensils are properly cleaned and sanitary before and during processing operations;
  • that edible products are handled and stored in a sanitary manner;
  • that condemned material and waste are handled and disposed of in the proper manner to assure that contamination of edible products does not occur;
  • that employees are dressed in compliance with the regulations and that personal hygiene requirements are being met;
  • that packaging supplies are properly cared for and used to assure that their condition is suitable for the purpose intended;
  • that only approved cleaning agents and compounds are used;
  • that fly control procedures are carried out in accordance with regulations;
  • that outside plant premises are kept in a satisfactory condition;
  • that rubbish and waste are not allowed to accumulate and become an unsanitary nuisance.
  • GSA food inspectors check the efficiency of the janitorial services in all rooms of the plant to assure that the various departments, including employees' rest rooms are kept clean, properly supplied with soap, towels, and other items needed.

    Plant characteristics

    Typically, the GS-7 food inspector is assigned to a plant hat is well designed, not obsolescent nor cramped, and presents only the usual maintenance problems. A slaughter plant typically engages in the slaughter of one or more species of animal or poultry. It may also carry out a breaking and boning function, or the preparation of cut pieces of poultry, but there is no grinding or chopping of meat or poultry.

    A processing plant to which a GS-7 inspector is assigned produces products characterized as either simple or of medium range of complexity as discussed under Complexity of Product. The plant typically is considered to be in compliance with Federal regulations and has a continuing history of such compliance and cooperation with the inspection program in correcting unsanitary and unacceptable conditions. Food inspectors as signed to the plant can expect cooperation from management in carrying out suggestions and recommendations for improving the sanitary condition of the plant and the safe and wholesome handling of meat or poultry products.

    Level of responsibility

    GS-7 food inspectors are responsible for dealing with management in the persons of foremen and supervisors. These dealings consist, for example, of giving instructions to foremen and supervisors to clean up an undesirable situation; calling to their attention that employees of the plant do not meet clothing regulations; that cleaning or clean-up operations are not being carried out properly, effectively and in conformance with regulations; instructing them to hold for further inspection or rework any products which do not meet standards or regulations.

    GS-7 inspectors have, and exercise, the authority to stop the production line whenever, in their opinion, the work is moving too fast to permit proper sanitary procedures to be carried out or for correct and effective inspections to be made. Typically, at this level, GS-7 food inspectors do not have responsibility for dealing with top management and owners of the plant in order to work out and develop long-range programs for upgrading the general sanitation and sanitary conditions and physical facilities, etc.

    GS-7 inspectors are under the direct supervision of a food inspector or veterinarian in charge of the inspection program for the plant. They receive their assignments from the supervisor. They notify their supervisor of the need for major repairs or the replacement of worn, broken, and unsanitary equipment, utensils, and other facilities, and refer major violations to him for corrective action. When other problems arise in connection with the work, the supervisor is available to provide technical advice and guidance, to resolve disputes, to resolve appeals, and negotiate with plant management when new, unusual, or controversial problems arise or where plant personnel are uncooperative. The work of the GS-7 inspector is reviewed for accuracy, judgment, effectiveness, and conformity to regulations, instructions, and procedures.

    Food Inspector, GS-1863-08

    Food inspector positions at the GS-8 level differ from those at grade GS-7, either in the nature of the work assignments, the characteristics of the plants to which the inspectors are assigned, or the increased measure of responsibility with which the inspectors carry out their functions.

    Nature of work assignments

    In addition to the duties characteristic of GS-7 food inspectors, in both the slaughter and processed products specializations, GS-8 inspectors spend a substantial period of time during their rotational assignments inspecting general plant facilities. The GS-8 inspector is responsible for recognizing existing and potential sanitation problems arising from the physical characteristics of the plants, the procedures which are carried out in general cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and working space, deficiencies in food handling and clothing of staff employees, etc,. In contrast to GS-7 inspectors who, day-by-day, inspect (a) work processes being carried out and (b) equipment and facilities for current contamination and lack of cleanliness, GS-8 inspectors are required to recognize emerging deficiencies or trends in the condition of equipment and facilities that are potential causes of unsanitary conditions and to develop recommendations for corrective action which will be of optimum effectiveness. They work both with their immediate supervisor and with top management of the plant in order to develop satisfactory work projects and time schedules for effecting changes necessary to bring the plant into conformity.

    Plant characteristics

    GS-8 food inspectors whose work assignment is essentially the same as those typical of grade GS-7 are assigned to plants which have characteristics such as the following:

  • Slaughter plants typically and continually slaughter more than one species of animal, either concurrently or sequentially. Slaughter operations in these plants are carried out on an assembly-line basis, and a large number of animals are slaughtered per hour on all working shifts.
  • Some slaughter plants combine the slaughter of one or more species of animal with the performance of simple processing operations, such as breaking and boning, cutting into primal cuts, manufacture of simple processed products such as ground meat and sausage meat, preparation of ready-to-eat chicken parts, boned turkey breast, etc.
  • Processing plants to which GS-8 Food Inspectors (Processed Products) are assigned have much the same complexity of product and product line as those to which GS-7 Food Inspectors (Processed Foods) are assigned.

    Typically, GS-8 food inspectors are assigned:

  • to plants with no continual history of conformity with Federal standards, which will require long-range planning to bring them into conformity with Federal requirements;
  • to plants whose physical facilities are antiquated and outmoded and which will require continual expenditure to maintain them in a satisfactory condition or to modernize them;
  • to plants with a demonstrable history of lack of cooperation or hostility toward the inspection program. Such plants typically have a record of continued violations of Federal regulations and requirements.
  • Level of responsibility

    In addition to the responsibilities characteristic of GS-7 food inspectors, GS-8 inspectors are required to assume responsibility for observing the general overall sanitary condition of the plant to which they are assigned, including both the physical facilities of the plant, the equipment, and the sanitary practices involved in the various processes carried out in the plant. Not only are they required to recognize poor sanitation conditions and poor sanitary practices, but they are also responsible for recognizing such potential hazards and dangers to the wholesomeness of the products involved as formation of rust, crumbling cement, peeling paint on equipment, water leaks, etc. In addition to recognizing unsanitary conditions, GS-8 food inspectors are required to be sufficiently knowledgeable of the plant's processes and practices to be able to identify causes of unsatisfactory conditions and to develop plans and programs for correcting these causes.

    GS-8 food inspectors are responsible for establishing effective relationships with foremen and supervisory employees of the plant to which they are assigned, and to develop effective relationships with plant management in order to work with them in affecting improvements in the sanitary condition of the plant.

    GS-8 food inspectors are under the supervision of either a veterinarian or a food inspector in charge of the inspection of the plant. They consult with the supervisor in developing recommendations for the correction of unsatisfactory and unsanitary conditions, discuss with them appropriate approaches to management and, from time-to-time, participate with the inspector-in-charge in discussing with plant management the long-range program for improving or updating the physical facilities and sanitary practices and procedures of the establishment. By contrast, GS-7 inspectors check cleanliness of floors and equipment and actual contamination. They do not inspect into causes of contamination.

    GS-8 food inspectors may provide on-the-job training and development to food inspectors of lower grade assigned to the plant. They serve as senior nonsupervisory inspectors on the staff and provide advice and assistance to other members of the food inspection staff as required.

    Food Inspector, GS-1863-09

    Typically, GS-9 inspectors of both specializations are responsible for the inspection program of one or more plants or a large department of a plant. The number of plants, or departments, involved depends upon the volume of work generated by the plant, the complexity of its operations and the geographical area involved. This level exceeds the GS-8 level because it includes an extra measure of responsibility for the program of a plant or plants, or a large department.

    Nature of work assignments

    GS-9 Food Inspectors (Slaughter) are usually assigned to plants or groups of plants with a relatively small-to-medium volume of production or to the slaughter department of a mixed plant. GS-9 Food Inspectors (Slaughter) carry out the full inspection programs in the plant. A veterinarian is available to make final determinations of pathology and to provide overall supervision and guidance.

    GS-9 Food Inspectors (Processed Products) serve as inspectors in charge of one or more meat, poultry, or fish processing plants or large department. Typically, they are the only inspectors assigned and are fully responsible for carrying out the full range of the inspection program.

    Plant characteristics

    Slaughter plants or departments to which GS-9 Food Inspectors (Slaughter) are assigned have the following characteristics:

  • the volume of production is too small to require the services of a full-time veterinarian, so that the GS-9 slaughter inspector deals with owners and managers independently on a day-to-day basis;
  • many of the plants combine slaughter of red meat animals with boning and breaking operations and the manufacture of hamburger and sausage according to simple formulas;
  • many of the plants may slaughter more than one species of animals.
  • Typically, these plants have newly come under Federal inspection and are now required to develop a long-range plan for improving the physical facilities and the equipment. They must develop procedures and techniques for the manufacture of hamburger and sausage that are in conformity with Federal requirements.

    Owners of such plants are typically cooperative but not familiar with Federal requirements. Since they are relatively small operations, and since many of them have been in operation for many years, plant owners are not eager to spend money in order to bring their plants into full conformity.

    GS-9 Food Inspectors (Processed Products) are typically assigned to plants with a full line of processed products which involve several formulations and varieties of labels. Most of the products are standard items in the meat, poultry, or fish industry; many combine meat, poultry, or fish with other food such as vegetables, cereals, and restricted items like nitrates and nitrites. The product line is commonly static; there are relatively few changes in formulation or labeling in the course of a year. Very rarely are new products introduced into the product line. Characteristically, at this level processing plants have typically had a continued history of compliance with Federal requirements, and the owners and/or managers are generally cooperative.

    Level of responsibility

    GS-9 food inspectors in both specializations are responsible for planning and carrying out the inspection program at assigned plants or departments, and for assuring that all products leaving the plants are in full compliance with law and regulations.

    They have primary responsibility for working closely with the plant owners and managers in developing plans for correcting deficiencies, for bringing plants into compliance, and for correcting problem conditions that are liable to lead to the manufacture of products that are contaminated, unsanitary, adulterated or not in compliance with the Federal requirement. GS-9 food inspectors in both specialties report to supervisors, who are responsible for a number of plants and who are therefore not always immediately available to take care of questions and problems that arise.

    GS-9 food inspectors receive advice, assistance and support from their supervisors. Supervisors also settle appeals made by plant management from decisions made by the food inspector. Supervisors participate in discussions between plant management and the GS-9 inspector-in-charge, when there are extensive recommendations involving a substantial outlay of funds or where delicate negotiations may be required.

    Food Inspector, GS-1863-10

    GS-10 food inspectors of both specializations differ from those at the GS-9 level only with respect to the characteristics of the plants to which they are assigned.

    Nature of work assignments

    GS-10 food inspectors in both specializations are assigned as inspectors in charge of one or more slaughter, processed products, or combination plants. Their assignments as inspectors-in-charge are similar to those described at grade GS-9.

    Plant characteristics

    The plants to which GS-10 food inspectors in both specializations are assigned differ from those typical of the GS-9 level, either in the complexity of the product, or in the attitude of the plant owners or management including the history of compliance with Federal regulations. Complexity of the products is evidenced by the variety of processing operations involved and the variety of products, many of which are not manufactured each working day. Typically, product "A" may be scheduled four times a week, product "B" once, product "C" two half days, and product "D" only by demand. Some plants may have contracts which are filled only once, periodically, or irregularly. These plants produce several products that are essentially similar but with variations in approved formula and labels. They may be constantly introducing discontinuing products that vary in formula or ingredients.

    Plants to which GS-10 food inspectors of both specializations may be assigned may have product lines similar to those typical of plants at the GS-9 level, but such plants may be new to Federal inspection. They may require considerable planning and scheduling of improvements to bring them into compliance and then into conditions that will avoid creation of potential sanitary hazards. Other plants to which food inspectors of both specializations may be assigned may also have product lines characteristic of plants at the GS-9 level, but management that is resistant to the Federal inspection program; that undertakes delaying tactics or deceptive practices; and that is generally unwilling to carry out recommendations for changes that will render the plant free from sanitation hazards. Such plants usually have a continued history of violations and hazardous conditions and, in many cases, have been subject to repeated court action.

    Level of responsibility

    GS-10 food inspectors of both specializations are, like GS-9 food inspectors, responsible for carrying out the food inspection program at the plant or plants to which they are assigned. They are called upon to maintain effective relationships with plant owners and managers. Their supervisors are available for consultation, advice and assistance in developing long-range plans, for negotiating with management, and for considering appeals from decisions of the inspector-in-charge.

    Food Inspector, GS-1863-11

    GS-11 food inspectors are found only in the processed products specialization. Work assignments at this level differ from those at grade GS-10 only in terms of the characteristics and operations of the plants to which they are assigned.

    Nature of work assignments

    GS-11 Food Inspectors (Processed Products) are assigned as inspectors in charge of processing plants whose product line is extremely complex, and whose volume of production is large. Typically, plants of this nature produce a large variety of processed foods; many times the same products may be manufactured according to several different formulae which are varied depending upon market conditions. Typically, the products are prepared in large batches, and the formulae must be determined according to the demands of an automated production system. It is therefore not possible for either management or the Federal inspector to inspect the product visually and determine solely from physical observation of the manufacturing process whether the product is being produced in conformity with Federal requirements.

    Therefore, most plants of this nature have established a quality control program. A quality control staff is established to carry out the program. The staff is usually directed by a food technologist, biologist or chemist who is capable of directing the laboratory procedures necessary to determine whether the product is in compliance with the established formulae, labeling, and Federal requirements. In essence, a quality control program involves selecting and testing samples at certain stages in the production line according to a predetermined schedule. For example, six samples may be collected every half hour and tested in order to determine fat content and water content. Every tenth package may be taken off the assembly line, counted to determine that the count is correct and weighed to determine that the weight is correct. The quality control staff carries out this sampling and testing program according to a protocol which has been established by the plant and approved by the food inspection authority. Plant quality control staff members record their findings both in terms of count, weight, chemical composition, fat content, etc. The records are analyzed to determine whether the product is in conformity with the approved quality control standards. The analysis is essentially a statistical analysis that determines in the final run whether the product is or is not in conformity.

    Inspectors in charge of plants with this kind of approved quality control program observe the quality control staff of the plant taking their samples and examine their records. They check the findings of the quality control staff in order to determine that the program is being carried out in accordance with the approved protocol.

    Food inspectors may also take samples of their own, either at the same time the quality control aid takes his samples or at different times. The food inspector may rely upon the laboratory analysis made by the quality control staff, or he may send his samples to the department's laboratory for independent analysis and findings. This kind of inspection is different in its essence from the inspection carried on by inspectors in charge of plants which do not operate a quality control program.

    Level of responsibility

    Responsibility of GS-11 food inspectors who are assigned to approve quality control programs differ from those of inspectors in more traditional types of plants. They must rely not on direct observation and accepted practice but must carry out the inspection program in terms of the meaning of the laboratory analysis, the significance of the statistical data, which are analyzed both by the quality control staff and by the inspector to determine whether the products are in conformity with the Federal program.

    Their personal relationships tend to be with the head of the quality control staff, who is typically a food technologist, chemist, or biologist with a professional knowledge of the methods and techniques used to determine the compliance of the company's product.

    In many cases processing plants with an approved quality control program have established standards which are more rigid than the minimum requirements of the Federal program. In this situation, once the quality control has been approved, these self-imposed standards become the standards to which the plant is held, rather than the minimum Federal standards. The responsibility resting upon the GS-11 Food Inspector (Processed Products) therefore is of a different nature than that characteristic of inspectors in charge of processed food plants at lower levels.

    GS-11 Food Inspectors (Processed Products) report to supervisors who are responsible for a circuit of processed food plants and who are not usually immediately available whenever problems arise. GS-11 food inspectors are expected to carry primary responsibility for all negotiations and discussions with the plant management in order to call to their attention products that are not in compliance with the quality control standards; they work with management to determine the causes of noncompliance. They are expected to recommend to plant management the improvement of physical plant facilities and general sanitation procedures.

    Individual Occupational Requirements


    For GS-5 positions, applicants must have one year (52 weeks) of specialized experience. Qualifying specialized experience must demonstrate the applicant's knowledge, judgment, interpretative ability, and technical skill associated with the production of a finished product which meets all prescribed standards of quality and conforms with approved production methods. Such experience may have been gained in the following:

    • Experience in a slaughter or processing plant, or a comparable manufacturing or production activity which prepares food for human consumption. This experience must demonstrate skills in sorting good from bad; applying, interpreting, and explaining standards, making decisions, and communicating with others.

    • Experience as a meat cutter/butcher in a wholesale or retail meat/poultry business, provided a full range of responsible duties are performed such as cutting or butchering, sanitation, dealing with customers, meeting customer standards, use of judgment, interpretation of various requirements, and sorting acceptable from unacceptable.

    • Quality control or laboratory analytical experience in the food industry or other similar production environments.

    • Supervisory responsibilities in the food or livestock industry, which demonstrates the applicant applied and has effective skills in communicating job requirements, evaluating results of work methods or processes, applying instructions, and interpreting standards or regulations.

    • Responsibility for management or supervision of a full scale commercial or industrial livestock or poultry enterprise.

    • Work experience as a chef or cook in a commercial establishment which demonstrates responsibility for proper food preparation, handling, and sanitation practices.



    Undergraduate education (for GS-5 positions): Successful completion of a full 4 year course of study leading to a bachelor's degree in an accredited college or university, that included 12 semester hours in the biological, physical, mathematical, or agricultural sciences.

    NOTE: Education is not creditable for positions above the GS-5 level.

    For positions above GS-5, applicants must have demonstrated one year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the next lower grade level in the normal line of progression in the organization in which the position is being filled.

    Specialized experience is regulatory food inspection work which involved either ante- and post-mortem inspection of red meat animals, poultry, fish, or seafood; or inspection of production of processed products involving red meat, poultry, fish, seafood, or egg products.

    This experience must have demonstrated:

    • knowledge of general sanitation practices, laws, and regulations governing the food industry;

    • knowledge of Federal laws and regulations pertaining to fitness of red meat animals,poultry, fish, or seafood for human consumption; or knowledge of Federal laws and regulations applicable to the processing of red meat, poultry, fish, seafood, or egg products; and

    • ability to communicate effectively with supervisors and workers in the food industry.

    Applicants for food inspector (processed products) positions at grades 10 and above must have one year of experience in the inspection of processed products. This experience must have demonstrated knowledge of Federal laws and regulations applicable to the processing of red meat, poultry, fish, seafood, or egg products. Such processed products inspection must have been at the medium level of complexity or higher.


    The duties of positions in this occupational series require constant, rapid, and repetitive physical exertion in a hazardous working environment. Persons appointed will be subject to extreme physical demands and protracted hours of work in various environmental conditions ranging from excessive cold to damp, to dry, and extreme heat and humidity.

    Before entering on duty, all individuals must undergo a medical examination. Failure to meet any of the required medical qualifications will usually be considered disqualifying for employment except where substantial evidence is presented that the individual can perform the essential functions of the job efficiently and without hazard to themselves or others, with or without reasonable accommodation.

    The following medical conditions must be met:

    Eyes: Individuals must not have disqualifying acute or chronic eye disease, including, but not limited to, diabetic retinopathy. Corrected distant vision must test at least 20/30 in one eye. Individuals must be able to read printed material the size of small type used in newspaper tabulations. Individuals must have clear and accurate depth perception.

    Ears: The ability to hear and understand the conversational voice is required. Individuals with some hearing loss and/or requiring hearing amplification will be assessed on a case by case basis.

    Color Vision: Individuals must have the ability to distinguish shades of color. Any significant degree of color blindness (25 percent or more error rate on approved color plate test) is disqualifying.

    Heart and blood vessels: Individuals must not have organic heart disease (i.e., blood pressure that consistently exceeds 160 systolic or 100 diastolic). High blood pressure that is regulated with no side effects to no more than the above systolic and diastolic readings may be qualifying.

    Full range of motion: Individuals must have the ability to twist 90 to 100 degrees from left to right at a rapid repetitive rate; work with arms at or above the shoulder level; lift and carry 15-45 pounds; stand and walk on slippery and uneven floors and catwalks, and climb stairs and ladders. Individuals must be able to perform all of the above for eight (8) or more hours per day.

    Manual dexterity: Individuals must have dexterity of the upper body, including arms, hands, and fingers. Individuals must have a normal sense of touch in both hands. Any evidence of repetitive motion conditions (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome or lateral epicondylitis) is disqualifying.

    Amputation or paralysis of the hand or arm is disqualifying. Individuals with amputations of the lower extremities must have an appropriate prosthesis that allows long periods (eight or more hours per day) of standing or walking on rough, wet, and slippery surfaces (floors, stands, etc.).

    Respiratory Disorders: Individuals with evidence of lung disease and/or active tuberculosis within the past five (5) years will be disqualified.

    Seizure Disorders/Hypoglycemia with Stupor or Unconsciousness: Individuals with a history of seizures or episodes of hypoglycemia with stupor or unconsciousness may be disqualified.

    Consideration will be given to frequency, duration, and severity of the condition, and use of medication to control the condition. This includes side effects from using the medication and the individual's ability to maintain the treatment regime. Individuals must be seizure/episode free for a one (1) year period of time to be considered eligible for appointment to the food inspection occupation.

    Hernias: Inguinal and femoral hernias with or without the use of a truss are disqualifying. Other hernias are disqualifying if they would interfere with performance of the duties of the position.

    Skin: Individuals with chronic dermatitis of the hands will be disqualified.

    Nose, Mouth, and Throat: Chronic diseases or conditions that interfere with distinct speech or with free breathing (with or without a breathing apparatus) are disqualifying. Normal sense of smell is required.

    Nervous System: Individuals must not have mental, nervous, organic, or functional neuro-psychiatric disorders likely to interfere with performance of the duties of the position.

    Information on obtaining Food Inspector positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.

    Source: OPM's Position Classification Standards for White Collar Work

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