Going the path of food regulatory means checking labels, making sure you have the right DV’s, following laws whether foreign or not, and dealing with international crises that can cause your products to be locked in the ports of England.
Regulatory is important because it’s what separates the small businesses, to the big national players, to the international powerhouses. A strong, compliant regulatory team is extremely valuable.
So what do people in the regulatory path have to do? You don’t have to be a Lawyer like Cesare Varallo, but you need experience. In this article, I will give you an outsider’s point of view about the regulatory department, and what I feel are the most valuable skills you need to be good at regulatory.
You Like and Understand Rules
Some people are rule breakers and some people are rule makers. I break rules, so regulatory isn’t for me.
However, if you like laws and policy, maybe a job in regulatory is for you.
Remember, there are a lot of differences in the type of food you sell. A baked good has a different regulatory body than a steak, and a consumer package food is even more complicated.
What about health supplements in the United States versus Canada? Or even Australia has different standards, limits and vocabulary to be in compliance which can be a pain if you want your one product to be launching internationally.
Certain ingredients, especially sweeteners, have different meanings in different countries which can be difficult to navigate.
In the realm of regulatory, you have to follow the law. You have to make sure your label doesn’t break any boundaries, you have to make sure your ingredients are honest and not deceiving, and that you can actually use them.
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If you value yourself as a person who really likes rules and is a genually an honest person (which I would be jealous of), regulatory would be right for you.
You can retain or collect information really fast
There is a lot of information when it comes to reading rules and regulations. The funny thing is it’s all free, but it can be a pain to find. If you have a knack for being a book worm and retain information well, or maybe won a college bowl or two, regulatory might be the perfect way to hone your skills.
But retention isn’t the best way to really excel at this job. You also need to learn how to collect information. The simplest way to gather information is to use google or the search bar, but there are people who are even bad at searching. You might actually need to practice easy ways to find information, or what the internet calls it, google-fu.
In most situations, regulatory is not a one-man job and if you think about it, it’s quite easy to find resources. Everyone in the food industry is a resource.
If I was in regulatory in a small start up, here are the resources I would use:
- Google or the regulatory body agency such as the FDA or USDA
- Vendors who sell ingredients and you ask them how they should treat the ingredient
- Manufacturers who deal with hundreds of different products
- Research data that shows how your competitors label your products (not the best way to do this)
- Various consulting bodies who charge a lot and their quality varies.
I do this all the time when creating the products I make at work. I’m very partial in using the manufacturer for advice, but everyone is different.
A great regulatory expert can retain a ton of information, and if they need help, they can call upon it with a flick of a phone call.
You want to be a badass consultant in the future
There are many consulting firms that focus solely on regulatory. It’s a very valuable profession in the long run and people will pay you a lot of money for fast information. Not everyone wants to go on the FDA website and look for one specific piece of information. They need it fast, and the fastest way is through someone who knows their stuff.
In the company I work for, our international regulatory team has consultants that they can contact right away. Entering a new market right away, you need to hire consulting firms to get the job done fast.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is a huge example in how you can jump on the regulatory consulting chain. Not many companies even know where to start for FSMA. However, if you study your whole life on preparing FSMA, that information becomes amazingly valuable.
I have friends in Albertsons who had to hire so many temps when the new FSMA label was going to roll out. This is your best time to get into the regulatory industry and to be an expert, you have to put your nose to the grinder and just study the heck out of it.
Most people will give up, but the rewards for studying regulatory will make you an expert at a narrow field, which leads to amazing opportunities.