Food Forensics

Food Forensics, Springburn pupils

About the Project

Glasgow Scientific Services (GSS) laboratory is based in the Springburn area of Glasgow. A significant local employer it is largely unknown by many local residents and the laboratory manager is keen to raise the facility's profile and encourage more young people to develop their science skills to enhance their career prospects. To support this aim GSS set two classes of S2 the challenge of investigating a possible food contamination incident and reporting back to a “court”.

I thought it was very interesting because before the project I didn't know much about the topic and now I know more.

Pupil, Springburn Academy

Project Partners, Aims and Objectives

  • Encourage pupils to understand the importance of science and related job opportunities
  • Raise awareness of the laboratory and its role
  • Support local schools and communities
  • Provide opportunities for staff development
  • Explore the science of food and drinks
  • Conduct experiments and investigations
  • Putting CfE into a workplace context
  • Provide work experience opportunities for pupils
  • Provide Continual Professional Development (CPD) opportunities


Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) – The School identified relevant CfE Experiences and Outcomes and GSS looked to match their input to meet these.

Development of materials – GSS developed a workbook to support the activity.
These materials have subsequently been revised by SSERC (Scottish Schools Education Research Centre) to ensure their fit with the curriculum.

Improved awareness - The school, GSS and the pupils all agreed that the project improved their awareness of the laboratory and what they do and the potential job opportunities.

Understanding of food industry career – Over 90 cent of the pupils that took part said they now know either a little bit or a lot more about the food industry.

Understanding food products - pupils taking part became more aware of food manufacturing processes and the programme encouraged them to question the ingredients used to make what they eat and drink and how this could affect their health.

Work placements – the partnership has led to GSS running work placements for pupils from Springburn Academy.

How we did it

Using the television show CSI as inspiration for “Food Forensics” GSS set the pupils a challenge of undertaking a food contamination exercise on their behalf. GSS briefed the pupils as to what they actually do in their laboratory and how they support the food and drink industry. They then gave the pupils bagged and sealed samples, reflecting the reality of what the lab does, and asked them to carry out a set of investigations and report back to them about their findings.

To support the S2 pupils in their experiments S6 pupils, trained by GSS staff at the Springburn site in the laboratory techniques, helped them through the process and staff from GSS visited the school to provide expert input.

The final presentation took the form of a “court case” with pupils presenting their findings and GSS staff acting as Sheriff and prosecutor to establish the accuracy and robustness of the findings.

The staff and pupils attending then had a tour of the lab and met other staff and modern apprentices and found out the wide variety of job roles on offer at the lab.

What we learned

Relevance – All of the pupils appreciated where and how the learning involved in the project fitted in with their wider studies and its forms an excellent lead into the practical world of work and work placement.

Enhanced skills – The pupils learnt how to work in teams, listening skills, research and report writing, the science behind food analysis, the legal requirements of food labeling and also information technology and presentation skills.

Unraveling the food industry – the food industry is not always directly associated with careers like analysis, science and legislation, so this project illuminated how those careers directly relate to a significant local employer.

What next?

Age and stage – This type of project is worth considering for an older age group

CPD – There exists a clear opportunity of establishing industry links that will contribute to staff CPD

Work placements – a number of workplacements and potential job opportunities through Modern apprenticeships could lead on from this partnership.

Involve more departments – Modern Studies, English and ICT in particular would be a good subjects to work with to deliver this programme.