Rozita is a trusted advisor to industry and government on matters of food safety. She helps ensure Australia’s food supply is one of the safest and healthiest in the world. She is passionate about managing food safety based on science.
"The food we eat contributes to our health. We need to make sure the way food is produced and handled doesn’t contain harmful micro-organisms and remains as safe as it can be,” Rozita says.
Saving lives, one microbe at a time
Rozita is based at our Food Innovation Centre in Werribee, Victoria. Her work covers many aspects of food safety.
"We help food products stay fresher for longer by extending their shelf life and allowing later use-by or best-before dates, for example," Rozita says.
"Or I might play 'detective' and uncover hard-to-find sources of food manufacturing contamination.
“In my team, we also test the effectiveness of preservative methods and substances in food products. Or if a food company wants to bring a new product to market, I help them make sure the product and their process is safe.”
Food for thought
Rozita says we all manage food safety risks on a daily basis. Each night parents around the country are deciding if they can still reheat last night’s leftovers to feed the family. Quality assurance managers decide whether the batch of product their company made today is safe to be sold tomorrow. Government officials are constantly enforcing food safety standards preventing and rectifying issues before they even reach us, the consumer.
"Consciously or unconsciously, we all make decisions regularly to ensure no-one ends up with a foodborne illness," Rozita says.
“Because the field of food safety is based on science, it means these decisions are informed and proportional to any potential risk. Food safety isn’t only about protecting consumers. It also plays a role in avoiding food waste in times of rising living expenses and environmental challenges.
“Our research helps form the basis for decision-making for consumers, food manufacturers and governments deciding on policies on food safety matters and more," she says.
Rozita says while there is a lot of information on food safety available, rules in the form of standards are the official ‘gate keepers’.
Food manufacturers are required to follow these standards in order to ensure consumer food safety, giving us assurance that our health will be safe-guarded and our lives not put at risk.
"That's why food standards matter to all of us. Even though they might sound like the less interesting part of food safety work to some people!" she says.
There are many layers of standards, policies and regulations that govern food safety. Some of them are set globally, like the standards of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Australia’s national regulations are framed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, and they are strictly enforceable for food manufacturers by their state or local authorities.
"There are private sets of standard procedures and rules governed by certification bodies which companies can voluntarily follow. If they do commit to these standards, they’re regularly audited. There are also rules that require the demonstration of safety for products not yet on the market," Rozita says.
Rozita works in this entrepreneurial space. She is helping innovative companies and start-ups understand their food safety and regulatory requirements before their new product is even available on supermarket shelves.
“Here at CSIRO, we work at the forefront of food innovation. Watching innovation through a safety lens ensures that products intended to be sold on the Australian market meet the safety prerequisites. I love working with food!” she says.