The #StopFoodCrime THTF team – part two – Scientists
Who’s who in the team? continued…
How are we getting the science right?
by Kate Cooper
In the background of this project are a great unsung group of people, those that know a tad or two about food crime from a professional perspective.
First and foremost is Professor Chris Elliott, who carried out the Government’s review of our food supply network after the horse meat scandal, now referred to as the Elliott Review.
The New Optimists contributed to this after ‘the Prof’ asked me to help him draw up a case study of how a major UK city could tackle food crime. The Elliott Review Birmingham involved not just the Prof and his team from the Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), but also some 40 people across the food supply network here in Birmingham
I therefore felt I knew him well enough to ask him if he’d be our science advisor on this project. He agreed, with a caveat . . . “providing, Kate, you don’t get me on stage”. I said at the time that I viewed this condition as a challenge, especially as his PA told me the man can sing!
Another person is Madeleine Smith who runs the Food Safety Group at the University of Birmingham and took part in the Elliott Review Birmingham; here’s a video interview we made at the time — she told me that a long-lost relative in Canada had found it on-line, and then got in touch! The wonders, eh, of social media.
I met with her over lunch at The Plough in Harborne. (For a lunch as befits a former food safety officer for the city, The Plough has Food Hygiene Rating of 4, pretty close to the highest rating of 5, and it’s tasty munch too; see Scores on the Doors).
We chatted over our meal before getting down to work, picking out the words and phrases that wouldn’t quite touch the right note with professionals in the field. She hadn’t a clue what I’d meant by a ‘musical about food crime’. I might as well have told her I was planning a trip to the moon . . .
By the time we’d gone through the libretto, though, she was utterly entranced with the whole notion, and could ‘see’ how it’d work. Given that she hadn’t heard a note sung, I was thrilled with this response.
We’ve also paid close attention to the Birmingham Food Council report: An update on food crime since the Elliott Review. This is an account of the briefing the Prof gave the Food Council Board, along with that of the city’s Food Safety Team Leader, Nick Lowe.
If you want to know more,
I thoroughly recommend reading Sorting the beef from the bull: The science of food fraud forensics by self-declared geek, Richard Evershed, FRS no less and a Bristol University professor of “biogeochemistry” (don’t ask! Google the word if you really want to know).
Kate Cooper – Chief Narrativium Prospector at The New Optimists
More The Hand That Feeds… team posts
“The Hand That Feeds – a musical about food crime” is being staged on the steps of St Martin in the Bullring, Birmingham city centre – Saturday 14th May at 12 noon and again at 2.30pm.
Those that register for #StopFoodCrime-fighter goodie bags can collect them before and after the performances.