Engaging food hypersensitive communities in citizen science

Project: Research council

Project Details


Eating food prepared outside the home when you have a food hypersensitivity (FH) risks quality of life and causes stress and anxiety, because it is associated with an increased likelihood of accidental or unwanted consumption of allergens. This is a significant challenge to the FSA given that their aim is to protect the UK consumer from the health risks posed by FH.

Citizen scientists with FH are ideally placed to actively engage with addressing this issue and contribute detailed first-hand observations and reflections around their experiences of eating food prepared away from the home. A citizen science approach that is compliant with the ECSA ten principles of citizen science, engaging those that by definition are motivated to avoid allergens, can provide detailed, relevant and focused information about eating outside the home encounters spanning restaurants, cafes, work places, schools, hospitals as well as at social occasions in homes eating food that is prepared by others.

Engaging with experts and stakeholder organisations that are committed to improving policy and practise in this area is key to this pilot research project and their input as collaborators is foundational to deriving and addressing the aims of the project: to (1) collect key information from citizens with a food hypersensitivity about how they assess allergen risk when eating food prepared outside the home, and (2) assess the future feasibility of engaging those with FH as citizen scientists.

These aims will be addressed in 3 work packages (WPs)

Work Package 1 (M1-2) We will hold workshops with key stakeholders and citizens to codesign the data that the citizen scientists will be asked to collect. We have agreed with our collaborators that a citizen science team of between 75-100 people will consist of (a) people with a FH aged over 16 and (b) parents of children aged under 16 with a FH. We will seek to ensure a mix of participants in terms of nature and severity of food hypersensitivity, geographic location and socio-demographic characteristics who will be recruited through our collaborators and through existing contacts.

Work Package 2 (M3-6) We will engage the citizen scientists by asking them to contribute information about their eating out experience online via their phones/tablets or PC at the time of, or soon after the event. The information designed in WP1 will be collected using software often used in citizen science settings (ESRI Survey123). They can also upload photos to accompany other information that they record. We will coordinate and support the citizen science participants throughout and offer encouragement and acknowledgement of their contributions. Reflection will be invited from 10% of the citizen scientists in short interviews.

Work Package 3 (M7) We will hold an online workshop to have a dialogue with the citizen scientists to reflect and feedback on project findings. A second online workshop with project collaborators and partners will discuss the project findings, the reflections of citizen scientists on these, and what the implications are for relevant industry, policy and practitioner stakeholders.
Effective start/end date14/02/2230/11/22

Collaborative partners

  • University of Bath (lead)
  • D&T Consultant Services Ltd
  • Imperial College London
  • University of Manchester


  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.