While public health affects everyone, the breadth of the sector means work that’s of direct, day-in day-out importance can go on unbeknownst to the average person. Food safety is one such area in which compliance to accepted standards is vital to provide the consumer with food which is safe to eat.  

With food safety hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons and hospital admissions for salmonella and E coli reaching their highest levels in decades, the need for dedicated food hygiene professionals is clear.

Alan Gibson is a consultant, auditor and trainer working with BRCGS food safety standards. The RSPH team spoke to Alan about his work within the sector and the impact of his role on the public’s health. 

Can you tell us about your current role and where you work?  

Currently I’m a director of a small limited company. The work that I do consists mainly of BRCGS auditing (Brand Reputation through Global Compliance Standard), consultancy, training and project management. 

What is your favourite part of your role?  

I particularly enjoy the personal interaction aspects of my work, such as when I am part of a team or training. I feel I can make a positive input and have impact through my work. For the same reasons I particularly enjoy my consultancy projects as they often involve a ‘building’ process, whereas auditing can be a more routine process. 

Can you give us an overview of your career path? 

After gaining my BSc (Hons) in Biology from Newcastle university, my work in the food sector began when I started work at Homepride foods canning plant in Maryport, West Cumbria (cook-in sauces). I then took a year out for a round-the-world travel adventure. 

On my return I started work at R. F. Brookes in Leicester (ready-to-eat ready meals). I then moved sites within RHM, joining Robertsons in Ledbury (jams and preserves). During my work at Ledbury, I was spending an increasing amount of time involved with audits and so when a job advertisement for an auditor caught my eye, I applied for the job and became an auditor.

A year later (1998) the BRC standard was launched, and I have been auditing ever since, clocking up 25 years as a BRCGS auditor in 2023. 

In your role, how do you support/improve the public’s health and wellbeing? 

I think I do this mainly through my training work. This is most often in HACCP (a food safety management system), and food safety. I also provide some associated training in root cause analysis, internal auditing and lean manufacturing.  

What area(s) of public health are you the most passionate about?  

I am most interested in food safety, and latterly mental health and wellbeing in my industry – I believe there is a huge underestimated demand for this, especially following the difficulties experienced by many people during the Covid-19 pandemic

How did you find out about RSPH and what do you enjoy most about your membership?  

I found out about RSPH initially through my early training experiences when I was looking at which organisations offered training that’s relevant to my industry. It’s important to stay up to date when offering training to my industry - RSPH stay topical and have a wide remit which really suits my training portfolio.  

Food safety standards: how you can help 

Food safety standards play a huge role in frontline efforts to keep the public safe. If you would like to get involved in this crucial sector, whether through workplace training, gaining an RSPH qualification, spreading food hygiene awareness or to complement your existing public health work, visit the RSPH Qualifications and Training Hub to find out the best course for you. 

If you would like to take your public health journey further, join Alan and thousands of others in becoming an RSPH member to enjoy benefits such as: