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Funding Call: SEFARI Fellowship with Food Standards Scotland on determining the lifestyle factors which cause particular members of the older population to become ill with foodborne disease

Funding Call: SEFARI Fellowship with Food Standards Scotland on determining the lifestyle factors which cause particular members of the older population to become ill with foodborne disease

SEFARI Gateway is delighted to provide support for a new Fellowship with Food Standards Scotland to assess the lifestyle factors which can place the older population at higher-risk of foodborne disease in Scotland, to aid in developing effective strategies to disseminate food safety information to the relevant groups within Scotland.

 

Background

The Food Standards Scotland’s (FSS’) strategy to 2026 sets out our vision to create a safe, healthy and sustainable food environment that benefits and protects the health and well-being of everyone in Scotland. A key objective for delivering this vision and which is set out in the Food (Scotland) 2015 Act is to protect the public from risks to health which may arise in connection with the consumption of food. The strategy for reducing foodborne illness, published in April 2017, will continue to make a key contribution to addressing this objective by targeting interventions for foodborne illness to the key transmission routes for microbiological, chemical and radiological contaminants in the food chain.

Dissemination of food safety advice to consumers to reduce foodborne illness in Scotland is a key priority for FSS. Current food safety advice and recommendations provided by FSS have been previously determined based on robust risk assessments, literature reviews and findings from specific research projects over several years. High-risk foods such as undercooked meat/poultry have been well-researched and have a significant evidence base for the risk, leading to the development of appropriate advice for consumers with regards to these products.

However, the level of risk from foodborne disease is not equal across consumers, with vulnerable groups within society being more susceptible to or at greater risk of severity from acquiring food poisoning. These “vulnerable consumers” traditionally are classed as those with an immature or weakened immune system, whether a result of illness (immunocompromised), age (under 4 or over 65 years old) or pregnancy. However, these are vague definitions which may not accurately reflect the level of risk within a group, and do not take into account lifestyle and population dynamics. For example, those aged 65+ in Scotland make up a significant part of the population: in the 2011 census, 16.8% of the Scottish population were aged 65 and older, therefore over 890,000 people who would be classed as “vulnerable” based on their age alone.

Food safety advice is relevant for all consumers and is achieved through the promotion of awareness of the 4C’s (cleaning, chilling, cooking, avoiding cross-contamination) to reduce foodborne disease; however, advice does need to be given to specific groups of vulnerable consumers in relation to certain food products. However, the current broad definitions of those vulnerable to foodborne disease, risk food safety messaging being diluted, unnecessarily recommending a restriction in consumer choice and potentially reducing nutritional intake for those who are not at risk.

Therefore, to fully understand the level of risk to vulnerable consumers in Scotland, FSS is currently reviewing the definition of “vulnerable groups” in relation to foodborne disease. This Fellowship will specifically target the older age population, which is one of the largest and most diverse vulnerable groups. This project will determine the lifestyle factors which cause particular members of the older population to become ill with foodborne disease, to compliment additional work in relation to the wider vulnerable group’s definition. The results of this Fellowship will inform our approach to consumer messaging to ensure that individuals are aware and informed of the correct food safety advice relevant to them.

 

The Fellowship

This project aims to determine the lifestyle factors which cause members of the older population to become ill with foodborne disease. This project will largely be a literature and evidence review but may require additional qualitative research. Factors to be assessed include, but are not limited to, shopping practices, food safety knowledge/behaviours in and out of the home and living arrangements. This will allow FSS to further segment a particularly diverse vulnerable group in relation to foodborne disease in Scotland.

This review of why those in the older population are deemed vulnerable to foodborne disease, in relation to lifestyle factors, will compliment ongoing clinical work assessing public health and incidents data to determine who in Scotland is clinically vulnerable to foodborne disease.

The outputs of this independent, external review will provide the evidence needed to allow FSS to identify any areas of change in relation to current consumer advice through working with social scientists. Ultimately, this will inform the updating of consumer advice and our communications approach, working with others, to target specific high-risk consumer groups within the Scottish population with relevant food safety advice routinely and in response to incidents.

 

The Fellow

The Fellow will require, evidence of scientific expertise in work related to foodborne disease OR someone with research experience and knowledge of the older population, key risks and barriers they face. Understanding of the key stakeholders and evidence in this area is required.

An ability to access and review segmented behavioural and lifestyle data is necessary to analyse available evidence on why the older population is getting ill from foodborne disease.

Experience of desk-based methodologies such as evidence and literature reviews, with a proven track record of researching and compiling written reports and communicating findings to policymakers and non-technical audiences.

A staff member of one of SEFARI Institutes, Centres of Expertise or UK Higher Education Institutes.

 

Practicalities

The details of the final Fellowship work plan will be developed, and agreed, between the Fellow(s) and a management team from SEFARI and FSS. There is a maximum of 50 days available for project delivery – the exact number of days, their timing, and their pattern through the working week will be discussed.

Funding will be provided by FSS and SEFARI, and this will be available to cover salary costs and any travel/subsistence. Please note that costs should be submitted net of VAT recovered by the applicant. Applicants should seek advice on appropriate VAT treatment of proposed funding. Support will be given by SEFARI Gateway staff to help access SEFARI resources, link to other relevant SEFARI Gateway Knowledge Exchange projects and their partners and a Fellowship Support Team will assist with links and access to industry reports.

The deadline for applications is 5pm on the 21st of August 2023 with interviews to be held within two weeks following from that date.

If you have any questions on this, or any general aspect of the SEFARI Fellowship scheme, please contact Charles Bestwick, Director, SEFARI Gateway at: c.bestwick@abdn.ac.uk

 

Details

  • Applicants must have the support of their organisation (whether SEFARIs, Centres of Expertise, or Higher Education Institutes).
  • Sign-off should be at the level deemed appropriate for each organisation (please talk to your line manager), but Directors/Chief Executives of your Institute should be made aware.
  • The taking up of such an opportunity should not result in a candidate going beyond the end of any agreed contract they may have with their employer.
  • It is recognised that individual circumstances are different and support levels will vary depending on salary, distance from the opportunity and so on – the support level will be kept under review to try and maintain a fair and equitable competition and process. The Institute/portfolio-organisation/HEI of the successful fellow(s) should not expect to meet any costs beyond that paid for by FSS or SEFARI Gateway as appropriate.
  • The successful candidate(s) will be expected to contribute to relevant meetings or outputs for the project partners as the Fellowship progresses and to generate knowledge exchange related content for SEFARI Gateway (support will be offered on this).
  • A presentation to FSS staff on the findings, and an online Case Study is required by SEFARI Gateway at the end of the Fellowship, alongside the final report of the outcomes.

 

Applications

Applications should be made to: info@sefari.scot and should include a cover letter (two pages of detail on your suitability or that of the team) and a two-page CV (or up to 6 pages for a team). Decisions on who to Interview will be based solely on this letter and CV.

The cover letter should include:

  • Why you are interested in this opportunity and what you would hope to get from it?
  • What skills and experience you would bring, and why you are suitable for this role?
  • Your planned approach to undertaking this project?
  • How would you use your wider work to underpin the Fellowship project?
  • How will you take the learning from this opportunity back into your organisation and to add benefit tot the Scottish Government Strategic Portfolio?
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