UKRI and FSA award funding to six citizen science projects to examine current issues in food safety

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AUTHOR: Fiona Holland

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have awarded £200,000 to citizen science projects, which involve the public in scientific research on food safety.

Funding was provided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), who are both part of UKRI.

It is hoped that these newly funded projects will help to address current issues with food safety in the UK by collaborating local communities, allowing citizens to contribute to research which could impact future changes in food safety policy.

Head of Public Engagement at UKRI, Tom Saunders said: “UKRI is committed to breaking down the barriers between research and society and one way we can do this is by enabling the public to be actively involved in research.

“These exciting citizen science projects will support people from outside of the research and innovation system to bring their lived experience and unique perspectives into the research process, tackling important issues around food safety and standards. 


“We look forward to sharing the outcomes and lessons from these projects with policymakers and the Research and Innovation community.”

The projects will last between six and nine months and will start later this year.

Executive Chair at BBSRC, Professor Melanie Welham said: “Ensuring the sustainable production, integrity and safety of our food are critical challenges that require different disciplines to work together to develop new approaches and novel solutions.

“BBSRC recognises that public dialogue and engagement around food is an essential part of that and these citizen science projects can demonstrate the power of involving the public in scientific research and make important contributions to maintaining the integrity of our food system.”

The citizen projects receiving this funding are:

  • Citizen science and antimicrobial resistance Led by Dr Sarah West at University of York, this pilot study collects data on the bacteria on home grown produce, and analysis how public involvement in the research affects their understanding of antimicrobial resistance and food safety.
  • Finding the right formula establishing the feasibility of doing science in the home to assess the safety of Powdered Infant Formula preparation
    This project has been built by both parents and researchers and is being led by Dr Aimee Grant of Swansea University. It will analyse how safe it for parents to prepare Powdered Infant Formulas at home.
  • Food allergy awareness champions: Towards improving food safety standards in online food procurement for people with food hypersensitivity
    This project will gather together useful facts about the safety, efficiency, practices and behaviours of people with hypersensitive reactions to foods when they purchase food online. The project is led by Dr Tassos Koidis, Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast.
  • Exploring the chopping board microbiome
    Working with underrepresented groups in the West Midlands, this project led by Dr Alan Goddard from Aston University will examine how foodborne bacteria lives and grows in homes. At the end of the study, educational materials for these communities will be published from the results.
  • Engaging food hypersensitive communities in citizen science
    This project looks at what eating out is like for people with food hypersensitivity, and what improvements can be made by industry, policy and practitioner stakeholders. Professor Julie Barnett from the University of Bath will lead the production of the study.
  • Using citizen science to explore plant breeding and investigate food-chain transparency for novel breeding methods
    Led by Dr Gulbanu Kaptan for University of Leeds, this project aims to make people more aware of how gene editing and new food tech works. They will actively design and collect data for the research and will also have a training and discussion meeting to learn more about plant breeding and the new breeding methods currently available. 
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