Saturday, 20th April 2019


Throughout the UK there is a network of laboratories dedicated to the science of public protection. These organisations are made up of highly skilled scientists who form the basis of the UK’s public protection enforcement service of all things requiring chemical analysis and testing. These scientists are known as public analysts.

The profession of public analysts, whereby scientists are wholly dedicated to carrying out a studies on various consumer commodities intended for use by the public, was first recognised in the 19th Century. Public analysts must ensure that the safety of these goods has been approved and that they comply with the law. These commodities can include:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Cosmetics
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Toys
  • Electronic equipment

Most often, public analysts are involved in testing the safety of food and drink products, but regardless of which products they work on, all scientists are specially qualified in Chemical Analysis. Public analysts will not be responsible for collecting samples, but will receive them from Trading Standards Officers and Environmental Health Officers, in order that they can be tested for something in particular. The substances, chemicals and potential hazards that public analysts will be asked to test for will vary depending on the type of product.

For example:

  • Food and drink is tested for contamination and potential health hazards and is only allowed to contain a limited amount of additives
  • Paint and toys must not contain traces of lead
  • Cosmetics products must be tested for substances harmful to the skin, hair and eyes
  • Medicines will be checked for harmful organisms

After testing the products, public analysts will write up reports on their findings for use by health officers and a number of agencies. Public analysts are simply responsible for finding the evidence, or lack of it, and presenting it coherently.

Analytical chemistry is an investigative science, so public analysts are always trying to find something. Whatever they find, they may sometimes have to present their evidence in court, and must be able to properly back up their findings.