From the edges of the Universe to kitchens everywhere

Looking back, it was inevitable that I would grow up to become a Scientist. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the late 60’s and early 70’s Sci-Fi series that were so popular when I was young. Very often this meant hiding behind the sofa for the scary parts of Dr Who, or being amazed at how Mr Spock was able to explain why things occurred in the Universe through applying his logic. All of these experiences fired the mind of a little boy who loved to ’mess with things’ and helped to develop my interest in Science. Later, I was amazed that I could be paid to ‘mess with things’ through the bench research that I conducted in my early career. I have to admit, however, to being ever so slightly disappointed that the future has turned out to be less exciting than that predicted by the visionaries who created these Sci-Fi series 4 decades or more ago.

Today, a TV genre that has become very popular is where the viewer is a ‘fly on the wall’ as Forensic Scientists apply numerous scientific techniques to solve a crime. This is great way to involve the audience in these investigations and to show the power of science to describe what goes on around us. I reckon my little boy will look back and remember these programmes in the same way I do with the early Sci-Fi series.
Visitors to the safefood stand at this year’s Balmoral Show in Belfast in May were also able to get involved in solving a food safety incident that had occurred in our kitchen. This ‘Germ Scene Investigation’ invited visitors to follow the clues and work out which of the suspects had caused food poisoning to occur – was it the knife or cutting board that spread raw meat bacteria to the cooked foods, was the meat undercooked, was the kitchen properly cleaned, were the foods properly stored – surveillance footage showed what had actually occurred and budding Forensic Scientists were able to deduce what was the actual cause.
In reality, it is impossible to see germs without the use of a microscope, so the safefood exhibit and the current safefood advertising campaign are being used to enable us all to ‘see the unseen’. Bacteria are indeed all around us – we co-exist with them, but some types of bacteria can cause food poisoning and safefood research has shown just how easily these germs spread around the kitchen and survive on surfaces and foods. This week safefood will bring our Germ Scene Investigation stand to the Ploughing Championships from the 25 - 27 September.

Whether this will inspire others to become food safety Scientists in the future is yet to be seen, but for my little boy who visited this stand at the Balmoral Show, he has been left with the slightly romanticised view that his Dad, in his day job, works with germs (true) wears a forensic suit (not true) and solves food safety incidents every day (not true).


Posted: 25/09/2012 09:42:53 by David McCleery
Filed under: Cleaning, Food poisoning, Germs, Kitchen

About Me

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David McCleery
I grew up in my family’s food business and have since enjoyed a career in a number of roles spanning food safety, consumer communication and public administration in the Agri-food sector. My wife and I have a busy household, with our little boy, girl and three dogs.