A drinks industry microbiologist has a highly technical role which is very important for the production of high-quality wine, beer or spirits. They are trained to use a variety of scientific and analytical techniques to monitor and study microbes including bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
A microbiologist will spend most of their time in a laboratory setting, analysing and identifying microbes found in the facility’s beverages against a database of known microbes. Their primary role is to ensure that there are no unsafe microbes being introduced during the beverage production process. It is a crucial quality control role that must be performed well to ensure the beverages produced are safe for public consumption.
A drinks industry microbiologist usually reports directly to a senior member of the quality control team. The microbiologist is also responsible for providing food safety and regulatory compliance advice to the production team of the facility.
Key Responsibilities of the Drinks Industry Microbiologist
Their key responsibilities include:
- Organise the ongoing operation of microbiological facilities
A drinks industry microbiologist must ensure that the laboratory has the equipment and supplies necessary to perform its role. They must organise and schedule the scientific analysis of incoming samples so the laboratory is productive and efficient.
- Provide advice to other departments within the facility
The microbiologist must be available to provide detailed food safety advice to other departments within the facility. They must be able to give them straightforward and practical advice for avoiding contamination of the facility’s products during production, bottling or transportation.
- Provide advice on plant hygiene
Maintaining a high level of hygiene is crucial for avoiding product contamination. The drinks industry microbiologist must be aware of common sources of contamination resulting from poor hygiene. They should share their knowledge with other departments throughout the facility.
- Ensure that the facility complies with regulatory requirements
The microbiologist must ensure that the facility’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points systems meet regulatory requirements.
- Monitor water management systems
The microbiologist must ensure that the water coming into the system is of the highest quality and that it is correctly handled once inside the facility. They will ensure the water management system meets regulatory requirements.
- Support business development by providing information to stakeholders
They will help the business deal with partners by providing scientific and regulatory compliance information.
- Support product development and facility upgrades
The microbiologist will provide information to assist in the development of new products and expansion of the beverage-making facility.
- Help the beverage facility meet standards accreditation
They will help the facility achieve various forms of safety, environmental and food safety standards accreditation.
Because this role is so technically demanding, it is important that the microbiologist has a relevant graduate and/or postgraduate degree in microbiology, microbial science, biological science, biology, or applied biology.
They should also have some qualifications relevant to quality control and hazard reduction, for example, RIHP, HACCP and/or Lead Auditor qualifications.
A drinks industry microbiologist should have a number of years’ experience working in a microbiology laboratory. Ideally, they will have experience dealing with the types of beverages produced at the facility.
- Comprehensive knowledge of laboratory best practices and drive to improve those practices where necessary
- High-level written and verbal communication skills
- Ability to prioritise, schedule, and organise laboratory tests
- Attention to detail and strong analytical skills
- Computer literacy
- Excellent decision-making skills and the ability to identify information that is particularly important to the business
- Ability to notice food safety issues at every stage of the production process
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