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Roger Clemens

IFT call to food scientists: Make a difference

Speaking Saturday night, June 11, at the Awards Celebration at the annual IFT congress and expo, IFT President-Elect Roger Clemens called on food scientists to help build a better, more nutritious food supply — for consumers in the United States and throughout the world.

“Our mission to supply safe, abundant nutritional food should compel us to develop ideas and strategies to reconcile the US food supply with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” said Clemens.

“There are many products that we can develop using whole grains, less sugar, and seasonings other than salt, while assuring a safe and nutritious food supply. Consumer demand is moving away from shelf-stable products, so perhaps we need to reduce our focus on extending shelf life and allocate more attention to maintaining freshness,” he suggested.

As a member of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Clemens was instrumental in supplying science-based recommendations to help shape the guidelines.

“As scientists, we have significant roles to play here,” said Clemens. For example, he pointed out that “we have the opportunity to use science to help bridge the gap between what the Dietary Guidelines recommend and the amount of fresh produce available. We can enhance existing technologies such as vertical farming, hydroponics, and aeroponics or develop new ones to increase our capacity to grow, harvest, and deliver fresh produce.”

Clemens also turned his attention to the state of Americans’ diet and health, noting that there has been an “alarming increase in the number of people with health problems linked to poor dietary choices and lifestyles.”

While the basic approach to a healthier lifestyle is fairly straightforward — eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting adequate exercise — the process of developing dietary recommendations that work for everyone can be complicated. Clemens noted, for example, that “if consumers skip or limit eggs, milk, and butter to avoid saturated fat and cholesterol, they end up with insufficient intakes of choline and vitamin D and numerous other nutrients. … Those consequences could contribute to significant public health issues, particularly among populations at risk.”

Clemens also raised another major challenge confronting those charged with improving Americans’ collective public health. “Healthy food is not nutritious unless it is eaten,” he said. “Clearly, getting consumers to make healthier food choices requires more than issuing new recommendations every five years, putting up a website, and placing healthier choices on the shelves of supermarkets.”

To this end, he noted, “as a follow-up to the release of the Dietary Guidelines, IFT has recommended that we initiate a multi-disciplinary dialogue among key stakeholders from academia, government, and industry, to identify potentially effective interventions to enhance short- and long-term weight management, better understand what drives food behaviors and behavioral economics, and assess the impact of time allocation and constraints as related to food choices.”

Clemens brought his remarks to a close with words of thanks and tribute to the members of IFT. “You membership and volunteerism ensure the strength and relevancy of this organization,” he said. “Our collective expertise makes us the premier authority in food science and technology. Our knowledge makes us the best individuals to ensure that our food resources are capable of meeting current and future Dietary Guidelines, and that we continue to provide a safe and abundant food supply worldwide.”

Read more: IFT Live