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My Food Job Rocks!

Jul 10, 2017

Steve Gendel has worked in the FDA for 25 years and this guy has had an amazing career doing so.

He’s been involved in the latest and greatest technologies ranging from early stage GMOs, Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, and of course, our favorite one right now, FSMA.

The best part of this episode is the very practical and real advice he give son how to get a job at the FDA. Of course, it’s a special mix of fiscal year luck, and who you know. He tells you the best places to meet people in the FDA, where the FDA usually works at (which of course, it’s not easy find), and when to start asking your contacts if there are positions open.

About Steven M. Gendel, Ph.D.

Dr. Gendel works to ensure safe food for everyone through education, consulting, and support of food manufacturers and organizations of all sizes as the Vice President, Division of Food Allergens, IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group. This includes facilitating compliance with the rules issued under the Food Safety Modernization Act, and supporting the development of Hazard Assessments and Food Safety Plans. He applies a scientifically sound approach to allergen control and testing, and to resolving compliance issues.  He is a Food Safety Preventive Control Alliance Preventive Controls Lead Trainer, a Certified Food Scientist, and an experienced speaker.  Previously he was the Food Allergen Coordinator for the US Food and Drug Administration where he lead policy initiatives, the development of regulatory documents, and assisted in enforcement activities.  He has over 25 years of experience in food safety science and policy and over 90 techincal publications. He held postdoctoral positions at Harvard University and the University of Toronto and was on the faculty of the Department of Genetics at Iowa State University before joining the FDA.


This episode is sponsored by FoodGrads, an interactive platform for the Food & Beverage Industry, which focuses on closing the gap between students and employers with a broader mission to attract and retain people to a meaningful career in food. From Food Scientists to Farmers, Chefs to Plant Managers, QA Technicians to Dieticians, or Marketing and Sales, no matter what your passion--there's something for everyone in Food—and they will help you find it.

Join FoodGrads for support, mentorship and guidance to start your career. Just go to

Knowledge Bombs

  • Steve talks about why he stayed in the FDA for 25 years
  • How the FDA is funded
  • What the FDA controls
  • What Steve thinks has the best food safety programs
  • The best advice on how to get into the FDA
  • When to start looking for a FDA job

Question Summary

One sentence or less: I’m a food safety scientist. My job is the next thing you eat will not kill you
Best thing about your job: I feel like I’m really making the world safer
Step to get to where you are today: Undergraduate degree in engineering in KS Western reserve , Graduate in UC Irvine in biology, Department of Genetics in Iowa University, met someone at FDA which was now Institute of Food Safety and Health, stay with the FDA for 25 years, now a consultant

What is the difference between the FDA then and now?: A lot of external factors shape the projects such as consumer, laws and regulations, and new congressional turnover
The hot topic before you left: FSMA is coming into effect (well…. Maybe not anymore)
Most important skill you can have in food safety: Flexibility. Food safety is a very integrative type of field. There are a lot of pieces in Food Safety.

Projects Steve was involved in:

  • Potential allergens in GMOs (back when it was new)
  • Risk analysis modeling
  • Joint project between FDA and Health Canada about Soft-cheeses and L.monocytogenes
  • Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act. Thresholds for Allergens
  • Lead author of an allergen threshold report
  • Helped with FSMA’s preventative control

New Food Trends and Tech: Advanced Genome Technologies. Can be a great tool to understand pathogens. It helps you understand where they come from and then we can do that
Biggest Challenge the Food Industry has to face: Transparency. Mainly asking “why”
One thing you’d like to know more about: How companies invest in food safety and food safety program
Favorite Quote: To err is human but to really mess up, you need a computer
Favorite Food: Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Sharp Cheddar, Swiss Cheese, Artisanal Food
What Advice Would You Give TO Work In The FDA: At this particular time in history, it’s hard to say. However, meet people in the FDA. It’s who you know.

How to meet FDA people: Scientific Conferences. Local meetings at IFT and IAFP, American Chem Society, Society of Toxicology, talk to them, they will know others who do.
Office of Regulatory Affairs. There are District Offices. Contact the Deputy Director of that office
Commissioner’s Fellowship
ORISE- Oakridge
CIFSAN – Centers for Food Safety in Universities that work collaboratively. Can get graduate or postdoc positions
Fiscal Year for the Federal Government: Begins October 1st, ends October 1st. But start looking now
How to find Steve: linkedin

Other Links

Ep. 031 - Tiffany Lau
Myrian Zboraj – Quality Assurance Magazine