Usually found diligently heading up procedures in the laboratory, we hauled Head of YorkTest’s Science Laboratory Dr Peter Horlock away from his facts and figures to talk us through a little bit of his day to day activities at YorkTest.
Hi Peter, can you tell us a little about your professional and academic background?
I always enjoyed science at school and this continued into my academic career. I completed a degree in Process Biotechnology followed by a master degree in Biomolecular Science. After this, I still felt I needed a greater understanding of the scientific world so I completed a PhD in Biochemistry. Using everything I learned, I’ve gone on to work in research and development for many companies.
When did you join YorkTest and what attracted you to the company?
I joined YorkTest in 2007 and was really struck by the positive attitude of the company. What really fascinated me about the work was that we perform a test which can directly help people – it’s not often you can have a positive influence on people from a wellness point of view.
As the head of YorkTest’s Laboratory, what do your day to day activities involve?
My main responsibility at YorkTest is to maintain high standards. Every test we perform is subject to very strict quality control. From training all our staff to reviewing our laboratory processes, everything is done with quality in mind and I’m always looking at ways we can improve our service for customers – I think it helps I’m quite a perfectionist so I really enjoy looking at every process, inside and out!
What’s changed at YorkTest in the 7 years since you joined?
I think since I joined -and I don’t want to infer anything here – the standard has improved! Seriously though, we have invested a great deal of time into checking our procedures, all the way from the manufacture of the individual components of the test through to the individual customer’s experience.
Have you noticed a difference in people’s attitudes and understanding of food intolerance since working with YorkTest?
Yes, I think food intolerance is definitely getting more attention in the media and now more people are asking questions and looking into links between their diet and their health, but there is still a lot of work to be done in helping people understand that food allergy and food intolerance are very different things.
What would you say to someone who suspected they had a food intolerance but were reluctant to take the test?
We always say that you should talk to your GP first and make sure there are no underlying medical problems you need to be aware of. If this doesn’t reveal the root cause, give our FirstStep Test a try. It’s a great way for you to discover if you have food intolerance with a simple ‘yes or no’ answer. Armed with that knowledge you can make a decision about taking a fully comprehensive programme with us to discover your trigger foods.
Food intolerance testing isn’t available on the NHS – could you explain why and do you think they should offer the service?
The NHS is a fantastic resource which provides so many avenues of help for patients but they can’t cover everything. Unlike allergy, the effects of food intolerance are often subtler by comparison, but no less distressing or uncomfortable for the sufferer! Because the effects aren’t life threatening, there isn’t really an urgency to provide the testing service.
If the NHS decided to provide the service, it would be vitally important that they follow it up with the nutritional support needed to help people understand their trigger foods and make the necessary changes to their diet. The testing we offer really is only one part of a wider service we offer to help people optimise their diet and wellbeing.
How serious is food intolerance?
It really depends on the customer. The negative side effects of eating problem foods can vary greatly from person to person from mild discomfort through to extremely painful and debilitating conditions.
We often refer to the ‘food fingerprint’ which is the understanding that each and every person’s body and how they react to foods, differs. There isn’t a one size fits all solution which is why finding out your personal food intolerances is important.
What sort of research have you been involved in at YorkTest?
As with every scientific industry, research and development is critical and since joining YorkTest I have been involved in a number of trials for Migraine and Homocysteine levels which have been fascinating. If you’re as fascinated as me, you can take a look at our research here.
What is the difference between ‘food intolerance’ and ‘food allergy’?
This is the most frequently asked question we encounter and often the most scientifically misunderstood but it’s very important to understand the distinction. I think the difference between allergy and intolerance is best explained here on our website.
As a company, what are YorkTest’s plans for the future?
Just recently, we have been pleased to launch our new website which we hope will show our customers clear and helpful information, not only about our products, but about the topics around food intolerance that we encounter through our work. Looking ahead to the new year, we hope to continue to maintain the highest standards of quality across everything we do to make sure every customer has a truly brilliant experience with YorkTest.