UK – The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI),  a non-departmental public body of the Government of the United Kingdom that directs research and innovation funding, has awarded £200,000 ($269,000) to six projects that connect researchers with the public on issues about food safety.

One project will focus on underrepresented communities in the West Midlands to investigate levels of foodborne bacteria in the home. Another will collect data about food handling practices and antimicrobial resistant bacteria associated with home-grown produce and what impact involvement has on knowledge and understanding of food safety and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Other projects include parents testing the safety of baby formula prepared at home, people with food hypersensitivities analyzing the allergens in food bought online and the experiences of those with food hypersensitivities when eating out. Each study will produce a final report that will be published by the FSA.

The projects are set to commence in late 2021 and last between six and nine months in cooperation with the universities of York, Swansea, Aston, Bath, Leeds and the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast.

The funding has been delivered in collaboration with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Economic and Social research Council (ESRC) as part of UKRI’s commitment to citizen-led research.

Citizen-led research means people are involved in collecting and analyzing data, and deciding what questions they want to ask and co-developing approaches with researchers, as reported by Food Safety News.

According to Professor Robin May, Chief Scientific Advisor for the FSA, it is important to use science and evidence to tackle food-related issues.

“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,” May said.

The Executive Chair at BBSRC, Professor Melanie Welham, recognized the need for concerted efforts  in developing new approaches and novel solutions that ensure the sustainable production, integrity and safety of  food.

Tom Saunders, Head of Public Engagement at UKRI, said outcomes from the projects will be shared with policymakers and the research community.

“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,” Saunders said.

The projects form part of a wider effort to coordinate activities and develop a joined-up approach to tackle the challenges of maintaining safe food in the UK.

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