Volunteers' Advisory Group

We are pleased that many of our members give up their time and use their expertise to help us meet our objective: the general advancement and application of food science and technology for the benefit, safety and health of the public.

To help us foster the engagement with volunteers, in 2015 we created a Volunteers’ Advisory Group (VAG), which sits at the intersection of the hundreds of volunteers, IFST Board and governing committees, and the IFST Executive team.

VAG aims to ensure that the voices of volunteers are heard, volunteers have the tools and information they need and that the work they undertake aligns with IFST’s strategic priorities. The group also facilitates the sharing of good practice.


Meet the Volunteers' Advisory Group
Here is your opportunity to find out more about the members involved in the Volunteers' Advisory Group. 


Alastair is currently Chief Executive Officer of SSERC, an organisation that offers a broad portfolio of services, principally in support of the STEM areas of the curriculum, specifically; Provision of Career Long Professional Learning for early years, primary and secondary teachers and school and college technicians, The Advisory Service and Lead Coordination role for STEM Ambassadors in Scotland and wider STEM engagement activities. As well as being a FIFST, Alastair is an active STEM Ambassador and a previous member of the IFST Education and Careers Committee.  In his spare time, Alastair is a gym enthusiast and a season ticket holder and avid supporter of Rangers FC.


Maureen Edmondson, OBE, BSc, PhD, FIFST, CSi, FIAFoSt, FECSS. Maureen was educated in Food Science at Queen’s University of Belfast and worked in Universities in NI and Melbourne Australia before joining the Mars company where she worked for 20 years. She was Director of International Scientific Affairs at Mars Inc until 2000. Maureen is Chair of the Patient and Client Council, the Ofcom Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, the Board of Governors of Edgehill Theological College and is a visiting Professor in the University of Ulster School of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences. Maureen is currently Independent Assessor and was also Past President of IFST.


Since 1986, Margaret’s vocation and passion has been working in the field of Sensory Science. She ran her own consultancy for seven years before retiring in 2015. She built her career and reputation working for Walker’s Snack Foods, Glaxo SmithKline, Campden BRI and Sensory Dimensions. As a founding member of IFST’s Sensory Science Group (SSG). Up to her retirement, she remained an active member of the SSG committee specifically acting as coordinator of its Education & Accreditation working group, and in this role was also involved with the Professional Development Committee (PDC). Margaret joined the Volunteers Advisory Group (VAG) at its inception.


Ruth is a Nutritionist/Food Scientist currently working as the Human Intervention Studies Manager in the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health (NICHE). Ruth has a BSc in Food Science and Technology, a Diploma in Industrial Studies, Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Authority and a PhD in Nutrition. Her main research interests include whole grains and health, under- and over-nutrition and food choice. She has extensive experience in designing and conducting human intervention trials, dietary nutritional assessment and in working with food companies in food product development.  


David is a Managing Director of FQC Solutions, a consultancy that specialises in food quality compliance and risk management. Before that he spent 18 years+ with Diageo plc and has vast experience in implementing both risk management and quality improvement across Africa, Latin America, Caribbean and USA and Europe. Having helped develop a set of global risk management standards, as lead auditor he has ensured improvement and compliance to these standards to beyond 97%. He is a FIFST and through FQC Solutions works closely with both FMCG and SMEs to help them meet their requirements from basic food safety and HACCP to integrated management systems.


Elena is currently a Field Veterinary Manager with Food Standards Scotland (FSS), ensuring meat official controls are delivered in line with legislation and internal policies. She is supporting FSS staff involved in food safety to join IFST, part of her leadership of the training and development portfolio within FSS. Elena is HACCP level 4 and Lead Auditor qualified and also trained and experienced in PRINCE 2 and AGILE project management methodologies. She is keen to share her knowledge and experience and support industry and other stakeholders in achieving their full potential in relation to food/feed safety. In her spare time, Elena loves scuba-diving, cycling, running, exploring the Scottish Highlands & Islands.


Kiu is a Registered Associate Nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition and currently a Doctoral Researcher in nutrition at the University of Westminster. Her main research interests include nutrition and dietary behaviour in the health and wellbeing of healthcare professionals and the use of mobile health. Kiu is keen to continue to support the work in promoting IFST activities and raising awareness of the broader opportunities there are in food science, nutrition and related areas. She is also the Chair of the Student Section at The Nutrition Society and the Vice-Chair on the IFST’s South Eastern Branch Committee.


Jay has recently graduated with a BSc in Bakery Technology from National Bakery School, the oldest bakery school in the world at LSBU. He currently leads on the bread section at the County Hall Bakery, developing new bread products and improving the quality of some traditional breads. He is also an active member of the Alliance of Bakery Students and Teachers (ABST), where he competed and received several awards. He’s also a member of the Craft Bakers Association (CBA). He hopes that as an early career professional, he can be a voice for the Volunteers’ Advisory Group within the food sector.

2021 Members' Week

2021 Members' Week - 2-5 March 2021

31 March 2020 was to be one of the highlights of the IFST calendar with the inaugural Members' Day event but this was an early casualty of the pandemic.  So for 2021, we were delighted to hold a Members' Week, 2-5 March 2021.

Members' Week was an online event for all members and a chance for non-members to get a flavour of what belonging to the IFST community means.  It was an opportunity to find out more about some of the great work our branches, working groups, SIGs and committees are doing; to get an update from IFST and the Board; to get help with your professional development; to learn how you can get more involved with IFST; and to celebrate the winner of 2021 Impact Award.

Highlights from Members' Week can be viewed on our YouTube channel, here


IFST Impact Award

What is the Impact Award?

The Impact Award recognises the important contribution that members bring to the work and life of the Institute. Without the time, energy, and expert input of those who serve on committees, working groups, branches and special interest groups, IFST would not achieve the strategic priorities set out by the Board of Trustees.

The Impact Award is an opportunity for members to showcase an innovative activity which has been undertaken which meets the following criteria.

An activity which which is scalable and sustainable and:  

1.    is new and has been undertaken in the last 12 months which delivers measurable impact to any/all of IFST's strategic priorities or,
2.    is an existing activity which has undergone an adaptation or change in order to deliver an enhanced impact linked to any/all of IFST's strategic priorities or, 
3.    is an activity that has been introduced as direct result of COVID-19 and which links to any/all of IFST's strategic priorities and has had measurable impact. 

An activity can be:

  • An event 
  • A resource
  • A publication
  • A new way of working 

The 2021 Impact Award was open to IFST:

  • Committees
  • Branches
  • Special Interest Groups
  • Working Groups
  • Individual members   [Note: self-nomination is not permitted. Submissions must be supported by another volunteer.]
The submission processes

Putting in a submission is a very straight forward and easy process, involving the completion of a two-page form, containing 7 questions and with a 500-word limit.

What is the time scale?

Submissions were accepted between 1 December 2020 and 19 February 2021.

In 2021, all submissions were reviewed and ranked by the Volunteers' Advisory Group with the winners announced during Members' Week.

What could we win?

A real treat awaits members of the winning branch, group or committee for them to enjoy at their next meeting or for the lucky individual winner.

Previous winners 

2021 South East Branch

South East Branch was awarded the Impact Award for the annual branch presentations on ‘The Future of Food Production’, adapted to an online format in response to COVID-19 pandemic.  With over 190 registered attendees, attracting participants from across the sector – students, academia, industry and government - the event was a great success.  The branch is keen to make the most of the greater reach online delivery provided, with hybrid events planned for the future.

2020 Northern Ireland Branch and Eastern Branch - two worthy winners!

Northern Ireland Branch:

A sub-committee of the Northern Ireland Branch formed the local organising committee to oversee the delivery of the 20th International Conference on Campylobacter, Helicobacter & Related Organisms (CHRO), held in Belfast on 8-11 September 2019. A very successful event with really positive feedback from delegates.

Key facts and figures:

  • 322 delegates from 35 countries
  • 14 exhibitors providing sponsorship. Included sponsorship from industry, national government and EU.
  • 284 abstracts submitted, 16 parallel sessions, 4 workshops and poster presentations.
  • Keynote presentation by Nobel Laureate Robin Warren.
Eastern Branch:

On 31 October 2019 Eastern Branch ran its first Conference on Hygienic Design of Food Processing. The event was jointly organised and supported by IFST; the European Hygienic Engineering Design Group (EHEDG); and the National Centre for Food Manufacturing, University of Lincoln, who also hosted.

The Conference attracted 53 attendees, including students (free registration), food manufacturers, food retailers, auditors, and suppliers of product and services to the food industry. Event feedback was excellent.

2019 IFST Student Group for their first-ever IFST University Food Challenge, a team competition in the format of TV’s University Challenge but focussing on food science and technology.  The competition was open to student teams from across the UK and was hugely enjoyed by those who took part.

2018 IFST Student Group submitted an activity based on a live Student Association Global summit breakout session, using digital technology and digital communication, to reach 500 attendees from across the globe. The focus of the session was 'international careers' and it involved both a live panel discussion and a Q&A session

2017 IFST Sensory Science Group submitted their activity on the maintenance and development of the IFST Sensory Science Group (SSG) Foundation and Intermediate Sensory Science Courses and the Register of Professional Sensory Scientists

Sharing good practice is always encouraged so winning entries will be made available to view via the IFST website after the announcements at the AGM or Members' Assembly.



Think piece - occasional series
Things are a bit of a mess and nobody is clapping for me! Time for a change

David Brown, VAG member, contributes to our occasional ‘think piece’ series.

The world’s a mess, nobody is clapping me working 40 hours a week on my food production line. Time for a change!

Last night I clapped for Sir Tom, again for the NHS, but also for the postal workers, the refuge collectors and the person at my click and collect. This morning, I found myself wondering why I hadn't clapped for the person that mixed my muesli, baked my bread and packed my eggs.

Our food manufacturers have been working across the entire year of the pandemic, wondering if Brexit was going to take away their jobs and constantly being concerned about the changes to their world.

Working from home that’s available to so many others, therefore allowing me to sit in my kitchen and eat my breakfast this morning, protected and safe, is impossible for a food manufacturer on a production line.
The world has changed and it will need to change still more, but we truly do have an opportunity to completely change how we do things, but that requires a cultural change.

I could argue that it will take ten years, because of the pandemic and Brexit and climate change and the increase in population and hundreds of other things, to progress to a point where we will be in a much better industry position.

That’s because we will have moved our philosophy on quality to a much improved level of standards, improved manufacturing and growing techniques.

But will we?  For the sake of this conversation, I am just talking about Britain and Europe maybe too, but...

If we look at the comparisons of quality products in 2020 then beyond Brexit and Covid, we could possibly see a big difference in the commitment to food quality, probably first world too?

Perhaps, though we will see quality improvements increase much faster if we have realised, REALLY realised how important better hygiene is in food production, how important cross contamination prevention is and most of all how important MANAGING RISKS most certainly are, in our industry.

Have we really considered the damage and loss of market share to other parts of the world through Brexit and Covid, through ignoring the climate changes and population rises. I am not taking sides here. Right or wrong.  I am just asking the question.

The food industry has performed magnificently, no more so than here in Britain. Has it been recognised? NO! Why? Because providing food for our table has always been possible, has always been expected and hopefully always will be, but maybe we have now found areas for concern, but also some areas to exploit perhaps.

Think about it!

The hospitality sector has suffered greatly due to the restrictions of the pandemic and we all know about it. Food Manufacturers may not have been considered “front line”, but they have been important and greatly needed to put that food on our tables, and have been suffering too. We have done well, but we mustn't go back to the pre Covid, pre Brexit ways of doing things, when all this has settled down. We must learn all the lessons and we now will have the opportunities as we move forward, through 2021and the next ten years.

So, let’s move away from the old stereotypes about unfair competition, dumping cheaper unit price items, cheaper wages, EU tariffs, USA chlorinated chicken and hygiene issues, and start our drive to be the absolute best in the world.

It’s not too late. Now is the time. Now are the opportunities and we can do it in the next few years.

For companies to establish superior manufacturing practices and provide superlative services, we must change though and now. The cultural biased can be ours.

What bothers me most is that when we have the means of resolving problems, we studiously ignore them. The more difficult the implementation of change, the more we ignore it.

It’s been like that with the pandemic and when the inevitable happens and we loose market share, perhaps through Brexit, we whinge about that unfair competition, customers transferring loyalty, lack of government focus and support.

Well this time don't blame anyone. Don't blame the pandemic or Brexit.

Understand the risks, understand the need for change, take the opportunities, forget that nobody has clapped you for their breakfasts and 'GO DO IT'!

David Brown, VAG Member

Feel free to respond to this article with your own thoughts, or why not submit an article that you think others might like to read and respond to.


True to our quality

David Brown, VAG member, contributes to our occasional ‘think piece’ series.

The purpose for most business today usually comes down to improving the bottom line and delivering more profit.

No more so than now during this second surge in the global pandemic.

The culture of countries and their governments is being tested to their limits and in the delivery of quality in the food and beverage industries, it is no different.

The right culture can do anything, including helping our industry continue to provide high-quality food and drink that is safe.

Our government and food standards creators have a key role in cultivating our people, bringing out their best.

We can’t perhaps predict the future of our industry after the pandemic and after we leave the EU, but perhaps we can create it. Our food and beverage industry are orientated towards maintaining excellent standards. Sustainability requires that we orient ourselves towards the same in the future, post-pandemic and post-EU.

This desire leaves me with some questions for us in the industry and all those who support the industry.

Will the quality of our food products slip after Brexit? Our Government claims that will not be allowed and that our excellent standards will be maintained and any deals with the likes of the USA, for example, and therefore allowing chlorinated chicken to be sold in the UK, will not happen. 
If and perhaps when we start purchasing food from new platforms, will standards be maintained and how?

Even Jamie Oliver has raised concerns about the effects of reduced standards.

There are concerns about British farmers and the effect on them if different standards are applied. How will these affect the food manufacturers, those that run these bastions of industry , the jobs they create and therefore YOU?

We must remain true to the quality of our food standards culture, to the quality of food business culture and true to the quality of our skilled and technically brilliant people.

David Brown, VAG Member

Feel free to respond to this article with your own thoughts, or why not submit an article that you think others might like to read and respond to.

Volunteers' Assembly

Volunteers' Assembly: formerly the annual gathering specifically for volunteers from the various groups that support IFST's core functions. 

In 2019 the Volunteers’ Advisory Group listened to feedback from previous events and extended the length of the Volunteers' Assembly to allow for more discussion and feedback. We had a valuable afternoon that consisted of different workshops and sharing of good practice.

These notes summarise the ideas and actions from the Assembly along with the presentations from the day below: 

Knowing and being responsive to our audience: Key findings from the 2018 membership survey…so now we know, what are we going to do differently?

Business planning & budget settingOutput from the Board 2019-2020 strategy discussion. What do you need and what will your branch/Special Interest Group/committee do to help deliver the strategy?

Being social and onlineAre we missing a trick? Making more of the IFST website, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and WhatsApp to promote your activities and amplify IFST’s messages.

Update from 2018 Volunteers’ Assembly

2019 Volunteers' Assembly - President's Update