Reporter 414, 9 February 1998

Changing world gives food for thought

Leeds microbiologist John Heritage has joined a government committee responsible for approving – or rejecting – developments in food production in Europe.

Because of his expertise in genetic engineering – he is currently working with clinical microbiologists to explore the spread of antibiotic resistance genes in clinically important bacteria – Dr Heritage has been invited to join the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes.

“It’s a very interesting job and I feel that it is an honour, both personally and for the University, that I have been asked to serve,” says Dr Heritage, whose term is for three years initially.

The committee was set up ten years ago to look at issues such as irradiation of food, but its remit has now expanded to include examination of foods produced by novel processes such as genetic manipulation. It is not without teeth. The last time it met almost every submission was required to give further evidence.

Dr Heritage is also about to collaborate with Professor Mike Forbes from Biology, on a major project to study the potential for antibiotic resistance genes to transfer from genetically modified food into gut bacteria after the food has been eaten.

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