28 Jun 12 Changing the conversation about food science
A world without food science is beyond nightmarish …. The IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) has launched a new public education campaign called ”A World Without Food Science” that aims to generate greater awareness of the role food science plays in ensuring a nutritious, safe and abundant food supply.
The campaign is a multimedia, national initiative featuring a series of videos that highlight how food science has responded to major food issues and provided positive solutions on a global scale.
The overarching kick-off video, unveiled during the keynote session at IFT’s Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Las Vegas this week, accurately depicts what a grocery store would be like without the existence of food science.
The black and white footage shows empty shelves, rotten fruit, insect-infested grain and spoiled meat to show the realities of a world without food science. The scene changes to colour when the voiceover explains how dedicated food science professionals make it possible to have food that is safe, flavourful and nutritious.
The concepts of the video are based on an IFT scientific review titled “Feeding the World Today and Tomorrow: The Importance of Food Science and Technology” published in the peer-reviewed journal, Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.
The campaign also includes five separate video segments that feature interviews with experts from various food science disciplines to show the positive impact of food science on the public. The first two video segments of the series were presented during the keynote address at the IFT’s Annual Meeting & Food Expo. The first video highlights the challenges surrounding availability of food and how we will need to feed approximately 9 billion people by 2050. The second video focuses on food safety and the important role of food science in ensuring that the food we eat is safe.
“As a scientific society, education is at the core of our mission as we advance the science of food. It’s especially important for the public to understand where their food comes from,” said IFT President Roger Clemens, DrPh. “This campaign tells the story of food science in a new visual way so that consumers understand the role of food science in their daily lives.”
In addition to consumer education, another goal of this campaign is to reach and inspire students to pursue food science careers. Food science incorporates concepts from many different fields including microbiology, chemical engineering, biochemistry and more. The ever-expanding field of food science encompasses a wide range of careers in areas such as food production and processing, quality assurance and control, food product development, food science research, and regulation and enforcement of food laws.
IFT.org has information on becoming a food scientist, as well as lesson plans and activities for teachers. IFT also produced the Day in the Life of Food Scientist videos to help people understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a NASA food scientist, a product developer at Disney Consumer Products, and a food packaging professional at a multinational food packaging and processing company.
As part of the World Without Food Science campaign, three more videos will be released within the year. Topics include Nutrition, Environmentally Responsible Food Production, and Developing Food Products for Specific Populations. Each video will be distributed nationwide and featured along with facts and additional resources on www.worldwithoutfoodscience.org.
The videos complement IFT Food Facts, a multimedia website created to show the practical applications of food science for consumers, such as food safety in the farmer’s market, how to store leftovers and understanding expiration dates. For more information, please visit iftfoodfacts.org for more information.
This video campaign was produced thanks to funding from the following IFT Divisions—Product Development, Quality Assurance, Citrus, Food Microbiology, Nutraceuticals, and Refrigerated & Frozen Foods.
How to cope in the pressure pot
It’s no secret that food science and processed foods are under fire on many fronts — by activists, marketers, and consumers themselves. To figure out ways to help change that situation, a group of Annual Meeting attendees gathered Tuesday afternoon for a workshop session titled “The Scapegoat That Is Food Science: How Do We Save the Discipline That Is Feeding the World?”
Presenters including Fergus Clydesdale of the University of Massachusetts and Guy Johnson of Johnson Nutrition Solutions helped set the stage for the conversation.
“From my perspective, I think we have a crisis on our hands with respect to food science,” said Johnson. “Food science is being skewered not only by consumers, but by people who should know better — people in the academic community, people in the research community. We really need to do something about it.”
“We’re getting attacked with emotionalism, and we’re responding with facts, and it isn’t working,” said Clydesdale.
Author Michael Pollan, an outspoken critic of processed foods, says that “food is what your great-grandparents ate,” said Clydesdale, adding that he hopes that is not the case because what our grandparents ate wasn’t always optimal. Consider Ireland in the mid-19th century, for example; when the potato blight struck, millions died or were forced to emigrate.
“I really think the media should look at just how good were the good old days,” said Clydesdale. “We have to approach it on an historical level with real data.” He pointed out that many people today are losing touch with some of the benefits of food science because they’ve rarely encountered a spoiled food and “therefore they don’t understand how a food stays stable and safe and why they should be concerned about it.”
After hearing opening remarks, session attendees divided up into groups to brainstorm strategies for helping to improve the image of food science. Participants came up with a long list of suggestions, including those that follow.
• Build messages around the culinary aspects of food science because consumers are favorably inclined to celebrity chefs.
• Think about using universities to disseminate information that consumers will perceive as credible and unbiased.
• Work on finding ways to communicate scientific data in ways that target consumers’ emotions.
• Help consumers realize that most food is processed in one way or another.
• Attempt to attract a growing pool of students to the food science discipline, and educate their parents about the potential for careers in food science.
Taylor Wallace of the Council for Responsible Nutrition wrapped up the session with a few thoughts and recommendations. “We really have to rally as a scientific community,” said Wallace. He acknowledged that communicating scientific information is complex because “science is gray; it’s hardly ever black and white.” He stressed that “consistent communication to consumers” is critical. “We need to seek common ground. How can we get aligned with consumers if we can’t get aligned ourselves?”