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.
Chief Executive Officer - Ray Dolan
Ray Dolan is safefood’s Chief Executive Officer and leads the Senior Management team.
Formerly Director of Corporate Operations with safefood, Ray is a qualified CIPFA accountant and holds a Masters in Public Administration. He is also the current Chair and Board Member of the audit committee for the Institute of Public Administration and a member of the audit committee for the Ulster Scots Agency.
“At safefood, it’s vital that we see both the big picture – how our work is informed by the latest research and building strong links with our stakeholders - and how that translates into communicating with the public through our integrated marketing campaigns and information resources.”
Ray has previously held positions with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, the Controller and Auditor General and the European Space Agency. Ray has a keen interest in the management of change and corporate governance. He has taken part in leadership challenge programmes and has also lectured in management accounting.
Director, Food Science - Dr Gary A. Kearney
Dr Gary A. Kearney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD, is Director of Food Science with safefood. Dr Kearney leads the chemistry/toxicology and microbiology disciplines within the organisation and has lead responsibility in managing the research programme and specialised laboratory services for safefood.
A graduate of University College, Cork with an MSc in Organic Chemistry and a PhD in Analytical Chemistry, Dr Kearney previously spent nine years in the field of national and EU legislative food compliance with the Health Service Executive in Galway and Cork prior to joining the organisation. Having initially served as Laboratory Liaison Manager and then Corporate Operations Manager, 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.
In addition to further training at Harvard Business School, Dr Kearney graduated with an MA in Health Care Management in 2001 from the Institute of Public Administration, Dublin and has also served as a member of the Board of Food Safety Authority of Ireland from 2000-2006.
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, Marketing and Communications - Dr Aileen McGloin
Dr Aileen McGloin has recently been appointed as Director of Marketing and Communications at safefood. Her role is to lead safefood’s communications programme to encourage and support citizens to change food-related behaviours in relation to both food safety and healthy eating.
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, Human Health and Nutrition - Dr Catherine Conlon
Dr Catherine Conlon MB, BCh, BAO, DCH, DObs, MPH, MFPHMI is Director of Human Health and Nutrition with safefood. She directs the public health and nutrition functions of the organisation.
Catherine has a medical degree from UCD; a Masters in Public Health from UCD and is a Member of the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland. She has worked as a general practitioner in Cork, a lecturer in the School of Public Health, UCC at undergraduate and post graduate level, and also as Senior Medical Officer in the Department of Public Health in the HSE South, St Finbarr’s Hospital Cork.
Dr Conlon has published widely on themes of health and wellbeing and has a particular interest in addressing biodiversity and sustainability. She is currently a board member of the Obesity Prevention Steering Group in Northern Ireland, the Special Advisory Group on Obesity in the Republic of Ireland and Royal College of Physician’s obesity specialist group and the Health Research Board Centre for Diet and Health.