NEHA April 2024 Journal of Environmental Health


Bivariate Our findings revealed significant correla- tions between job level and gender ( χ 2 (3, N = 2,147) = 37.76, p < .001); age ( χ 2 (15, N = 2,225) = 310.20, p < .001); years of pro- fessional experience ( χ 2 (15, N = 2,235) = 842.26, p < .001); and education level ( χ 2 (18, N = 2,234) = 129.36, p < .001). Multivariable Using an ordered logistic regression analysis, we found that female gender consistently cor- related with a lower job level, even after adjust- ing for age, years of experience, and education level as covariates ( β = -.39; p < .001) (Table 2). Additionally, increased years of experience and advanced education were both signifi- cantly associated with higher job levels. Discussion While previous studies have examined the demographic composition of the EPH work- force overall, our analysis provides insight specifically into the retail food regulatory workforce (Table 1). We found that the work- force is highly educated overall, with nearly 93% of respondents reporting that they held a bachelor’s degree or higher. There was also a high percentage (65.5%) of respondents ≥40 years. Most respondents self-identified as White (73.6%). Although the majority of survey respondents self-identified as female (58.8%), we found that women are underrep- resented in leadership positions even when accounting for age, years of experience, and education level. Understanding workforce composition and demographic factors associated with job level will support future e•orts to enable equitable workforce recruitment, training, promo- tion, retention, and capacity building. These e•orts can potentially advance retail food safety, especially among under-resourced communities (Balanay & Richards, 2022; Gill et al., 2023; Jadotte et al., 2023). The high level of education among our respondents aligns with previous findings on the education levels of EPH profession- als and conforms with expectations, given that many EPH careers require a bachelor’s degree (Gerding et al., 2019). Additionally, EPH professionals are usually required to earn a suœcient number of credit hours in formal science education to become accred- ited in their field (NEHA, 2024b). Previous


Ordered Logistic Regression Analysis of Factors Associated With Job Level



95% Confidence Interval

p -Value

Self-identified gender as female


[-0.56, -0.22] [-0.78, 0.09] [0.66, 0.81] [0.28, 0.51]



.11 .73 .40


Years of experience

<.001 <.001

Education level

EPH surveys indicate that the workforce includes professionals from various edu- cational backgrounds, including individu- als who did not obtain a degree in science or environmental health (Gerding et al., 2019). Further, given the high rates of ineq- uitable access to higher education in the U.S. and disparate educational outcomes among marginalized students, future train- ing e•orts in retail food regulatory safety might need to focus on alternatives to bach- elor’s degrees for career preparation, espe- cially among marginalized students (Baum & McPherson, 2022). Notably, the majority (74%) of respon- dents indicated that they had received their last retail food safety training within the past 6 months. This finding shows a strong culture of continued engagement in train- ing, which can help retail food safety pro- fessionals to remain current on topics rel- evant to food safety practices. This culture of continued training can also be leveraged to support increased engagement with sci- entific concepts, application of the Retail Program Standards, collaborative data col- lection and dissemination e•orts, and con- tinuous improvements to identify and fill gaps in knowledge. Future research will be necessary to determine if the workforce is receiving the appropriate training at the right times. We will provide more informa- tion on training and timing in future articles in this series. The large number of respondents who were ≥40 years—combined with the fact that more than one half of all respondents (51.1%) had been engaged in retail food regulatory work for ≥10 years—might indicate upcoming shifts in workforce composition and training needs as veteran employees begin to retire.

Previous findings on the EPH workforce indi- cate a high percentage of individuals who have been employed in EPH for ≥5 years and a high percentage of individuals ≥46 years (Gerding et al., 2019). The fields of EPH and public health more broadly have already identified concerns about recruitment, training, and succes- sion planning given the strong possibility of a large number of employees retiring in the near future (Resnick et al., 2009). If older employees intend to remain in the workforce, it could become necessary to also develop new approaches to ensure that training can accommodate the specific learning needs and technological capabilities of older workers (Bogaert et al., 2023). Our results show that these concerns are also relevant to the retail food regulatory workforce and could substan- tially impact future training e•orts. Much like previous surveys of the EPH workforce, most respondents to our survey self-identified as White (73.6%). While it is diœcult to make direct comparisons between our sample and the racial and ethnic compo- sition of the U.S. due to incongruencies in our racial and ethnic survey response options and U.S. Census response options, the U.S. Cen- sus Bureau (2022) estimated that approxi- mately 13.6% of the population was Black or African American and approximately 19.1% were Hispanic or Latinx. In comparison, our survey included 8.2% Black or African American respondents and 7.5% Hispanic or Latinx respondents. This result might indicate that there is an under- representation of these racial and ethnic pop- ulations in the retail food regulatory work- force. All other racial and ethnic categories in our survey were closely aligned with U.S. Census Bureau population estimates.


Volume 86 • Number 8

Powered by