Six projects have been funded in the United Kingdom that connect researchers with the public on issues about food safety.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) awarded £200,000 ($269,000) to the projects that are set to last between six and nine months and begin in late 2021.

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).

Citizen science projects mean people are involved in collecting and analyzing data, and deciding what questions they want to ask and co-developing approaches with researchers.

Professor Robin May, chief scientific advisor for the FSA, said it was 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.

Baby formula and allergen projects
Funding comes from the FSA, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Economic and Social research Council (ESRC), both part of UKRI.

Involved universities are York, Swansea, Aston, Bath, Leeds and the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast.

Professor Melanie Welham, executive chair at BBSRC, 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.”

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.

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.

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