Meet John O'Brien

John O'Brien



Professor John O’Brien is Founder and Director of The Food Observatory, UK. Formerly, CEO of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and Leader of the Food Safety & Integrity Research Program at Nestlé, his experience spans the international food industry from senior technical leadership positions in Groupe Danone (France) and Nestlé (Switzerland) to various consultancy and advisory projects in Ireland, Europe, Japan and USA. In his Nestlé role he had responsibility for leading the global technical competence centre in food safety and quality at the Nestle Research Centre in Lausanne with 150 staff overseeing chemical and microbiological method development, chemical and microbiological risk assessment, the Nestlé Food Safety Early Warning system and the Nestlé laboratory performance programme (proficiency testing and audit). 

O’Brien is a well-known thought leader and educator in food safety, food technology and nutrition and was the founding editor of the leading journal Trends in Food Science & Technology. He sits on the Editorial Boards of several other journals including Italian Journal of Food Science, Human & Experimental Toxicology and Heliyon. He sees innovation as a duty especially as businesses and consumers alike are confronted more than ever with the health-time-environment nexus.

O’Brien holds/has held non-executive directorships of several technical organisations including ILSI (Washington), IFSH (Chicago), ILSI Europe (Brussels, as Chair), and Campden BRI (UK). He currently serves as a member of the Science Council of the Food Standards Agency (London), where he Chairs the Working Group on Global Food System Risks, and is a Visiting Professor and Chair of the Advisory Board at the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food & Health (NICHE) at Ulster University, Northern Ireland. 

A Professional Member of IFT and former trustee of Feeding Tomorrow, he is an active fellow of the Institute of Food Science & Technology (UK) and the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK). He has a PhD in Food Chemistry (University College, Cork) and an MSc in Toxicology with Distinction (University of Surrey).