A day in the life of a food science laboratory technician
Hayley Pfeifer from Riverland Almonds won the Leaders of the Future award at the annual APAC Food Safety Awards, which was hosted by SAI Global in August 2019. Entrants in the Leaders of the Future award category displayed a unique perspective on food safety, a drive towards continuous improvement and leadership potential through vision.
In this article, we take a look at what has inspired award-winner Hayley Pfeifer. In the process, we get a glimpse of a day in her life as a laboratory technician at Riverland Almonds, one of three major almond handlers in Australia.
What inspired you to start a career in food science at Riverland Almonds?
I completed a Bachelor degree in Human Nutrition majoring in Biochemistry at Latrobe University in Melbourne. Throughout my degree I found my passion for food science and the many areas that food science encompasses. Upon completion of my degree I was given the opportunity relocate to Loxton, South Australia, to begin employment at Riverland Almonds as a laboratory technician.
Why is food safety so important for almond processing?
Almonds, like all ready-to-eat foods, pose a risk to the presence of pathogens and other food safety risks that can cause illness and be potentially life threatening if consumed. Ensuring the implementation of a rigorous testing schedule that includes the testing of raw and finished product, as well as the environmental conditions the product is stored and processed in, reduces the risk of pathogen contamination and allows any issues to be identified quickly to ensure contaminated product is not distributed to the public.
Do you have a mentor; and if so, what have you learnt from your mentor?
I have learnt a lot from the Technical Officer at Riverland Almonds that I report to, Renee Morelli. Renee has an abundance of knowledge about compliance, good laboratory procedures/expectations and safety. Additionally, through Renee I have had the opportunity to develop my skills in attention to detail, data analysis, problem solving and organisation, as well as an overall awareness on what is required in maintaining a high technical standard in a processing facility.
What does a typical day as a food science laboratory technician involve?
A typical day involves microbiological and chemistry testing of all product received into the factory for pathogens and other bacteria, toxins and yeast and mould counts that correlate to shelf life, safety and sensory characteristics. Similarly, any stock that has undergone any kind of treatment (ie, pasteurising or dry roasting) must also be tested before it is released into the market to ensure the process has been successful. In maintaining contracts with customers, to whom the product is marketed, it is also a requirement to uphold specific compliance tasks. Additionally, maintaining an environmental swabbing schedule to ensure the hygiene of the facility is kept at a high standard, as well as ensuring laboratory equipment is calibrated and validated before use.
Which SAI courses are you most interested in attending as part of your prize? (The award includes a food safety learning scholarship with SAI Global, valued at $10,000.)
There are so many excellent courses to choose from that I know I will get a lot out of! Those that I am particularly interested in completing are Principles and applications of HACCP, Internal food safety auditor, Lead food safety auditor, Quality assurance and food safety management and Implementing SQF systems — manufacturing edition 8. I am interested in improving my skills and knowledge of food safety auditing and manufacturing expectations.
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