Spotlight on Anne Betty: IFST Food Science and Nutrition Special Interest Group

1. Please provide your name and current role.

Anne Betty (MIFST), Registered Nutritionist and Food Labelling Advisor.

2. Briefly share your professional background.

I have 25 years of experience in the food industry working for retailers and manufacturers in various technical roles before working as the company nutritionist for the Co-op and becoming a registered nutritionist (RNutr) with the Association for Nutrition. Since 2015, I have grown my own consultancy business, AB Food Nutrition, specialising in the nutrition analysis of recipes and menus and advising on food labelling compliance.

3. Describe your journey into the food industry and explain what motivated you to join the Food and Nutrition Special Interest group.

I got my first taste of nutrition science whilst studying Biomedical Sciences at the University of Bradford and after graduating, I shadowed an M&S cake selector on a factory visit – and that was me hooked on a career in food!  Over the years, I have seen the importance of nutrition grow very quickly within food science and manufacturing and so I joined the SIG around the time that I took the plunge to work freelance, when the group was newly formed and quite small, as a way to network with other professionals and get more involved in IFST activities.   

4. As a nutritionist working within the food industry, what do you consider to be some of the most significant challenges you encounter, and how do you address them?

I am often asked to review food/food supplement labels that contain health claims – and sadly many are unauthorised or not worded correctly. I am often challenged as to why other brands are frustratingly able to get away with similar non-compliant claims.  As a freelance nutrition & labelling advisor, I have to point out that my job is to provide recommendations that will ensure their brand packaging is compliant with the current regulations/rules and remind them of the risks if the authorities do find fault with their labels. The lack of consistent enforcement of unauthorised claims in the UK is frustrating to us advisors too!

Working in the food industry in a role that relies heavily on regulation has also been a challenge since Brexit.  Although the existing EU regulations were retained, there were lots of label changes required at different timescales to reflect that the UK was no longer part of the EU.  As time has moved on we are beginning to see regulatory divergence between the UK and EU for example, since December 2023, all wine sold in the EU is now required to display ingredients and nutrition information – either on the label or electronically via a QR code. Such regulatory divergence can be challenging to manage for clients who produce and sell products in both markets. Working freelance, it is extremely important that I am up-to-date with all regulatory changes affecting EU and UK and so membership of professional bodies or building networks with other nutrition & labelling experts is really important and so valuable.  I am also aware that if a query is outside my own scope of practice, collaboration or referral to suitable professionals is necessary.

5. Could you elaborate on how your membership in the IFST special interest group in food and nutrition enhances your professional development and networking?

I have met some great people through being involved in the Food Science & Nutrition SIG, who each have a wealth of experience and knowledge. The ability to establish professional relationships and work effectively as part of a team is an important aspect of professional conduct through which being part of the SIG enables me to develop and apply my knowledge and skills.

6. What are your primary responsibilities and objectives (as a nutritionist) within your organisation?

I provide nutrition consultancy, including recipe analysis to help food businesses of any size comply with current food information regulations and best practise.  I provide impartial advice on all food labelling matters and nutrition & health claims. My ultimate objective is for food labels to accurately and adequately inform consumers to help them make healthier diet and lifestyle choices the easy way.

7. How do you collaborate with other professionals, such as food scientists, chefs, and marketers, to ensure that the food products meet nutritional standards and consumer expectations?

Nowadays, I tend to advise and help shape nutrition policy when working with retailers and wholesalers, which in turn then shapes how those brands develop new products or reformulate existing products to meet nutrition goals such as the salt reduction targets 2024 or achieving a 20% sugar reduction.  When working directly with a small business however, I can support product development much more closely by quickly analysing proposed product formulations and advising what impact a change to an ingredient may have so that chefs or product developers can then test out the improved recipe to make sure the organoleptic properties still deliver.

8. How do you assess and evaluate the nutritional content and quality of food products, and what criteria do you use to determine their suitability for consumers?

I carry out recipe analysis for businesses by obtaining accurate details of the ingredients and quantities used whilst taking into consideration any processing and cooking methods used, as these will impact on ingredient wastage and cook loss or gain.  I always promote the use of the colour-coded traffic light style nutrition information, as this can be a useful tool during product development to discuss which ingredients might be reduced/increased or substituted to improve the overall nutrition profile.  I have also used the Food Standards Agency’s nutrient profiling model ever since it was introduced by Ofcom back in 2007, primarily to assess products affected by broadcasting restrictions but also in my role at Co-op, when I reported on the quantities of healthier food & drinks promotions offered in stores.

9. Can you share some examples of how you have worked with public health organisations or advocacy groups to promote healthy eating and improve food choices in the community?

In 2022 I took part in a guest blog for the World Cancer Research Fund – to talk about what to look out for on the labels when choosing healthier foods during a supermarket visit: