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Ensuring food safety

Do you take your ability to enjoy safe food in Singapore for granted? Don’t. The next time you have a meal, say a silent “thank you” to those who help ensure that the food on our plates is safe for consumption.

For 27-year-old Justina Leo, her work at the Singapore Food Agency’s (SFA) National Centre for Food Science (NCFS) allows her to contribute towards ensuring food safety in Singapore.

A scientist in the Food Safety Monitoring & Forensics Department at NCFS, she carries out microbiological testing for products in Singapore to ensure that they meet food safety standards.

This includes testing food samples and swabs from contaminated food and from sites of foodborne outbreaks under investigation.

“Food is essential for survival and is also an integral part of our lives. The knowledge that my work contributes towards food safety makes it meaningful,” she says.

A passion for life science

Ms Leo has had an interest in science since she was young. She recalls watching documentaries about how organisms functioned, and wondering how and why things functioned as they did.

Later on, she grew fascinated with how microorganisms interact with humans and animals, infectious diseases, and how such scientific knowledge could be applied to food.

This spurred her to pursue studies in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in the United States, under the National Environment & Water (NEW) Scholarship.

Ms Leo says her time at UCLA played a huge role in shaping her as an individual. “The American education system offers a rich array of programmes. As I was required to take classes outside of my major, I was exposed to many different schools of thought, which provided me with a more holistic perspective.”

Since she started work as a scientist in 2015, Ms Leo has not only done laboratory work, but has also had the opportunity to work on various projects that delve into food security, policy and planning.

“The diversity of work as well as working with various people in SFA have broadened my horizons, and I am keen to further my understanding of the different scopes in SFA and contribute towards ensuring and securing a supply of safe food for all,” she says.