FSA helps fund citizen science research projects

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

The FSA and UKRI have funded six projects bringing togetherresearchers and the public to investigate food standards and safety
The FSA and UKRI have funded six projects bringing togetherresearchers and the public to investigate food standards and safety

Related tags: Standards, Food safety

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have awarded £200,000 to fund six projects uniting the public and researchers to investigate food standards and safety challenges.

Funded projects cover issues such as antimicrobial resistance, food hypersensitivity and food safety and hygiene in the home. Funding was delivered in collaboration with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council.

Unlike traditional research, these citizen science projects actively involve the public in collecting an analysing data, deciding what questions are being asked and co-developing approaches with researchers.

Launching late 2021

All projects will be between six and nine months long and are due to begin late 2021. More information on each of the projects can be found in the box below.

FSA chief scientific advisor Robin May said: “In addition to delivering invaluable data, these projects will allow the communities we serve to help build the evidence on which policy decisions are made. We are committed to using science and evidence to tackle the latest food-related issues and citizen science is a fantastic way of doing this.”

Funding for the projects was part of a wider effort by the FSA to coordinate activities a develop a joined-up approach to tackle the challenges of maintaining safe food in the UK.

New approaches, novel solutions

Melanie Welham, executive chair at the BBSRC, added: “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.”

Funded citizen science projects

Citizen science and antimicrobial resistance, Dr Sarah West, University of York

A pilot study to collect data about food handling practices and AMR bacteria associated with home-grown produce and what impact involvement has on citizens’ knowledge and understanding of food safety and AMR.  

Finding the right formula – establishing the feasibility of doing science in the home to assess the safety of Powdered Infant Formula preparation, Dr Aimee Grant, Swansea University

A collaborative community science project developed between parents and researchers to test the safety of Powdered Infant Formula prepared at home.  

Food allergy awareness champions: Towards improving food safety standards in online food procurement for people with food hypersensitivity, Dr Tassos Koidis, Institute for Global Food Security

This project aims to understand the safety, efficiency, practices, and behaviours of people with food hypersensitivities when buying food online.  

Exploring the chopping board microbiome, Dr Alan Goddard, Aston University

This project will engage underrepresented communities in the West Midlands to investigate levels of foodborne bacteria in the home and produce educational materials for their communities.   

Engaging food hypersensitive communities in citizen science, Prof Julie Barnett, University of Bath

This study will explore the experience of people with food hypersensitivities when eating out and what the implications are for relevant industry, policy and practitioner stakeholders. 

Using citizen science to explore plant breeding and investigate food-chain transparency for novel breeding methods, Dr Gulbanu Kaptan, University of Leeds

This pilot project aims to improve participants’ knowledge of the use of new technologies and gene editing in the food-chain. Participants will be involved at the design and data collection stages of the research. They will also take part in an interactive training and discussion session where they can improve their knowledge of plant breeding and novel methods. 

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