Louise Roberts

What has been your main involvement in food safety professionally?

I have worked in food safety for most of my career. My first role was working in the labs for a milk powder and creamery site. Since then, I have worked as a microbiologist, technical and QA managers, and latterly as a consultant.

I have been in the industry during the ‘Salmonella in eggs’ issue, emergence of Listeria as a commonly screened pathogen, and ‘Horsegate’ to name but a few.  

I have always enjoyed training and educating as many people as possible about food safety. I believe that having a recognised standard for aligning your achievements against, such as the Register of Food Safety Professionals, and having Chartered Scientist (CSci) status gives the food safety professional better recognition, inside and outside of the food industry.

How have you obtained the skills necessary to support your successful involvement with food safety?

I studied part-time for a degree in microbiology, alongside working in a microbiology laboratory. I have attended numerous courses, seminars and visited production sites, which always adds to my understanding of food production processes and the associated controls.  I now attend lectures and webinars, as well as site visits. What has always struck me is that every production site is different, with its own quirks and needs, which negates the ‘one size fits all’ approach to systems such as HACCP. 

I strongly believe that you never stop learning. The Continuing Personal Development (CPD), that I maintain as part of the registration for Chartered Scientist status, and being registered in the Register of Food Safety Professionals records my development and encourages reflection of my achievements.

What do you envisage as the areas of focus for food safety in the next 5 years?

Food safety has evolved into an issue that now involves criminal actions on a much wider scale than previously understood.

My top three areas would be:

  • Food crime: be that food fraud or another type of crime.
  • Regulatory challenges: the challenges that Brexit brings, as we move towards March 2019, and beyond into the transition period.  As we currently belong to the European food safety and agriculture agencies, the agencies that have been key to the food safety structures in the UK will become less entwined in our networks. Along with the reduction in enforcement budgets and a move towards centralising enforcement teams, it will lead to an interesting focus for food safety professionals.
  • Emerging pathogens: as the technology to identify pathogens develops, I feel that there will be a focus on identifying those pathogens that have not been easy to routinely screen for, such as viruses and antibiotic resistant bacterial pathogens. As the saying goes: ‘you have to look for it to find it’. Ten years ago, we were not routinely screening for horsemeat. Who knows what the next routine test will be?