Award details

Exploring the chopping board microbiome

Principal Investigator / Supervisor Dr Alan Goddard
Co-Investigators /
Professor Anthony Hilton, Dr Rachel Pateman, Dr Tony Worthington
Institution Aston University
DepartmentCollege of Health and Life Sciences
Funding typeResearch
Value (£) 31,422
TypeResearch Grant
Start date 10/01/2022
End date 09/08/2022
Duration7 months


By analysing the microbiology of chopping boards, we address two priorities of "assuring food safety and standards": 1. How can the FSA better understand and reduce the impact of foodborne pathogens? We will access hard-to-reach communities in authentic environments to gather robust evidence of hygiene practice and microbiological outcomes. By monitoring cleaning regimes in a minimally invasive manner, and identifying best practice, we will produce bespoke educational materials used to bring about behavioural change. 2. How can the FSA improve the evidence base concerning antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and food? We will assess AMR of the organisms identified and correlate this with the cleaning regimes to inform our ultimate recommendations. Our showcase event will educate our communities about the risks of AMR, especially in a food context. We have identified hard-to-access communities with intrinsic links to Aston University and will gain privileged access through ambassadors. This will diversify citizen science and determine if there are any bespoke food hygiene challenges. These groups are those that identify as minority ethnic and those in multioccupancy households. We will use our ambassadors to attract members of their households; we have trusted relationships with our ambassadors through our roles as educators. Ambassadors and citizens will be involved in co-creation at all stages of the project as well as testing their own samples in the laboratory if they wish to, being fully integrated into the project. Ambassadors will facilitate engaging participants with the project, providing an established trusted link to reduce any associated anxieties. By involving citizens in the project, we will gain authentic samples in a manner otherwise impossible - it is vital the microbiological samples arrive for testing within a couple of hours. We also gain huge benefits of scale, having hundreds of students who may choose to take part as ambassadors.


Many foodborne infections begin in the home, often through poor hygiene where chopping boards provide an opportunity for raw foods to cross-contaminate. By undertaking microbiological analysis of chopping boards, including investigating the antimicrobial resistance profiles of the organisms found, we will address two of the areas of the priority area "assuring food safety and standards": How can the FSA better understand and reduce the impact of foodborne pathogens? How can the FSA improve the evidence base concerning antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and food? We will use a combination of contributary, collaborative and co-creation citizen science approaches whereby we will use our undergraduate Bioscience students as ambassadors to hard-to-reach communities. Ambassadors and citizens will be involved in the design of protocols and materials, as well as the final dissemination outputs including educational materials for communities and academic papers. We have six work packages that allow us to achieve our objectives. WP1 - Recruitment of citizen scientists. Our Biosciences students undertake microbiological practical work as a core part of their programme. Through our student community, we will recruit ~150-200 ambassadors who will give us privileged access to their homes and communities, as well as providing rapid sample collection as they will be travelling to campus regularly. Samples will be collected by our participants using the ambassadors as facilitators. WP2 - Co-creation of sampling methods. With a subset of our ambassadors and their households, we will co-create our final sampling methods. These will be designed to be robust and reproducible whilst providing sound scientific outcomes and being acceptable to the end users. We will co-create the instructional material to ensure it is effective and fit-for-purpose. WP3 - Chopping board sampling. Ambassadors will collect sampling kits and engage their households with sampling. Alongside this, they will record the relevant demographic information as well as key parameters relating to chopping board use and behavioural information. WP4 - Sample analysis. This will be conducted either by our project manager or by the participants themselves at "open sessions" where they can visit the laboratory and undertake the microbiological testing themselves. WP6 - Dissemination. We will use social media, including "takeovers" by our citizens to publicise the project throughout. The academic team and our ambassadors will run an end-of-project showcase for our citizens and the wider community to present the project and its outcomes. Ultimately, we want to develop best practice guidance for chopping board use for each community. Using our scientific findings, our ambassadors and citizens will co-create, with the academic team, educational materials specifically targeted to our community groups for distribution to promote behavioural change. We will publish the microbiological and citizen science outcomes of the project with our ambassadors and citizens involved in writing the manuscripts and named as authors as appropriate. WP7 - Monitoring and evaluation. We will quantify project success in terms of number of engagements (ambassadors and participants recorded separately). Our project manager will replicate key results to ensure scientific reproducibility of our findings. We will evaluate the societal benefits through electronic surveys and individual interviews. For our participants we will assess changes in food hygiene knowledge and behaviour and, for our ambassadors, development in their knowledge of citizen science.
Committee Not funded via Committee
Research TopicsX – not assigned to a current Research Topic
Research PriorityX – Research Priority information not available
Research Initiative UKRI Citizen Science Collaborations [2020]
Funding SchemeX – not Funded via a specific Funding Scheme
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