safefood is a multi-disciplinary organisation with an approved complement of 30 staff. Its four directorates are Marketing and Communications, Corporate Operations, Human Health and Nutrition, and Food Science.
safefood was established in December 1999 as the Food Safety Promotion Board. It is one of six North/South Implementation Bodies established under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and given legislative effect on the Island by the North/South Cooperation (Implementation Bodies) (Northern Ireland) Order 1999, and the British-Irish Agreement Act, 1999.
Funding is provided by the Oireachtas in the Republic of Ireland and by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Seventy per cent of the funding is provided by the Department of Health in the Republic of Ireland, and the balance (thirty per cent) is provided by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland.
The functions of the Body are carried out by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) under the policy direction of the North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC). There is a twelve-member Advisory Board and a safefood Advisory Committee (SAC) to assist and advise the CEO in the discharge of safefood’s functions.
safefood’s headquarters are in Cork, with an office in Dublin. The approved permanent staffing complement is 30 full-time employees.
safefood's role is to promote food safety and provide nutritional advice on the island of Ireland in accordance with its legislative remit. We achieve this by building an evidence base of sound and authoritative science which we use to influence policy and to promote behaviour change in the overall interests of improved public health.
We have made it a priority to work in partnership with key stakeholders on the island of Ireland and to utilise innovative approaches to support us in:
- communicating clearly, in a direct and supportive manner;
- promoting a better understanding of food safety, nutrition and healthy eating; and,
- encouraging healthier, safer and sustainable food choices by consumers and those involved in the food chain.
Its four directorates are Marketing and Communications, Corporate Operations, Human Health and Nutrition, and Food Science.
The Corporate Operations directorate ensures that safefood complies with all legal requirements and responsibilities from finance, HR and Information Systems and promotes best practice in all areas of corporate policy making and governance.
The remit of the Human Health and Nutrition directorate is in the nutritional safety of food and the prevention of infectious foodborne diseases through safefood’s communication and research programmes.
The Food Science directorate undertakes all aspects of food safety as related to food microbiology, chemistry, toxicology and hypersensitivity including scientific assessment, identifying priorities and commissioning research and surveys. Our focus is to support both consumers in the safe preparation of food and those who produce and sell food through awareness campaigns, training and education and dissemination of advice. Specialist scientific support is also provided to other external stakeholders. The Food Science directorate also has overall responsibility for the research function and the development of the laboratory linkages programme and scientific co-operation.
The Marketing and Communications directorate promotes the corporate messages of the organisation to a number of key audiences using the most effective channels. The key messages around food safety, food hygiene and nutrition are communicated using a combination of public relations, media relations, advertising, digital and social media marketing, events, direct marketing, publications, sponsorship, website and the safefood helpline.
Interim Chief Executive Officer - Dr Gary A. Kearney
Dr Gary A. Kearney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD, is safefood's Interim Chief Executive Officer and currently also acts as Food Science Director. Gary leads the Senior Management team and the chemistry/toxicology and microbiology disciplines within the organisation and has lead responsibility in managing the research programme, food safety promotion along the food chain, and specialised laboratory supports for safefoood. In addition to further training at Harvard Business School, Harvard JFK School of Government, and Henley, Gary graduated with an MA in Health Care Management in 2001 and a Professional Certificate in Corporate Governance in 2016 from the Institute of Public Administration, Dublin.
A graduate of University College, Cork with an MSc in Organic Chemistry and a PhD in Analytical Chemistry, Gary previously spent nine years in the field of national and EU legislative food regulatory compliance with the Health Service Executive in Galway and Cork prior to joining the organisation.
Having initially served as Laboratory Liaison Manager, Corporate Operations Manager and then Director Food Science at safefood, he was previously responsible for the development of the organisation's scientific co-operation and linkages between food safety laboratories on the island, and performance management.
He has also previously served as a member of the Board of Food Safety Authority of Ireland from 2000-2006, and as Board Member/Chair Audit Committee at Leargas from 2000-2011.
Gary has a keen interest in the management of change, corporate governance and the progressive development/mentoring of staff.
“At safefood, it’s important that we see the big picture in terms of how our work is informed by the very latest research and evidence base in food safety and nutrition; how we effectively develop, nurture and sustain key stakeholder working partnerships in both Ireland and Northern Ireland; and finally, how we translate all that into communicating with the public and other stakeholders across the food supply chain through our integrated marketing campaigns, training and information services.
I think such a joined-up-approach will encourage best use of existing resources to obtain optimum value in order to protect public health.”
Director, Corporate Operations - Patricia Fitzgerald
Patricia Fitzgerald is safefood’s Director of Corporate Operations with responsibility for accounting and finance, resource management, IT and corporate governance.
A qualified chartered accountant, Patricia has over twenty years experience in a variety of diverse commercial and public sector organisations including the Central Bank of Ireland, the Investor Compensation Company Limited, eBizz Consulting, CEVA and the Lafferty Group.
She holds a Bachelor of Education and has also completed a MBSc in Corporate Leadership and her other areas of interest include change management, negotiation and leadership skills.
Director, Nutrition - Dr Aileen McGloin
Dr. Aileen McGloin was appointed as Director of Nutrition in March, 2022 having acted as Marketing and Communications Director for the previous four years. Her role focuses on addressing key public health nutrition issues such as obesity and food poverty. Aileen leads the nutrition team at safefood, working in many areas, from policy development, to managing research and community programmes.
Prior to that, Dr McGloin was safefood’s Communications Manager for Digital and Health. Combining her background in food, health and behaviour change with experience in PR, marketing and digital communications, she led safefood's digital communications since 2010.
Aileen holds a 1st Class honors degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Ulster and a PhD in obesity in children. She has 20 years of experience working in research, management and health communication roles across the food industry, public relations, academia and public service.
Director, Marketing and Communications - Fiona Gilligan
Fiona leads the Communications team in safefood and is responsible for directing our communications strategies and public health behaviour change campaigns. Working with a multi-disciplinary team, this involves the research, development, delivery and evaluation of awareness campaigns and important food safety or nutrition messaging to the public. Using the full suite of communication channels, safefood’s marketing campaigns also utilise a wide network of stakeholders in Ireland and Northern Ireland which is critical in delivering on our mandate of partnership working on the island.
Fiona brings more than 20 years’ experience as a public service communications leader to the role and has a proven ability to bring teams of all levels together for mutual success. For the last four years, Fiona was Communications Lead with Healthy Ireland, the cross-Government initiative based in the Department of Health. Prior to that, she worked with communications teams in both safefood and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. A graduate of University College Dublin, Fiona holds a Food Science Masters and a BSc in Science as well as a post graduate diploma in Public Relations. Passionate about putting the public at the centre of her work, she is committed to ensuring safefood’s evidence-led communications engages with people and ultimately helps them to make healthier choices.