24 August 2010

What determines food trends

The world is facing some unique dietary challenges with record-high numbers of people suffering from while another segment of the world population faces hunger and malnutrition.

The world is facing some unique dietary challenges with record-high numbers of people suffering from diseases related to overconsumption, such as obesity and type-2 diabetes, while another segment of the world population faces hunger and malnutrition.

This is one of the messages David Schmidt, president and CEO of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) brought across during his talk entitled Issues New and Retro: What is driving global food and health trends at the 15th World Congress of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST), being held in Cape Town from 22 to 26 August.

"We have been living through changing and challenging times recently, when IUFoST is involved in helping world leadership in the critical areas of Food Safety, Food Security and Food Science and Technology Education," said IUFost President Geoffrey Campbell-Platt. The theme of the Congress, Food Science Solutions in an Evolving World was chosen to highlight the important role food scientists play globally in terms of research and education in topics such as food security, food safety, food preservation, food processing, consumer education and environmental sustainability.

Issues in food science

In his talk, Schmidt discussed some of the top challenges facing the food science industry the world over. He highlighted the following issues:

  • Precaution creep. Science being unnecessarily cautious about new technology and thereby withholding new products or techniques from the public who need them.

  • Obesity. "Globesity" as Schmidt calls it, is a growing problem in both the developed and the developing world. Although great initiative is being taken with education regarding better food choices, it also poses a challenge for food scientists to improve the nutritional profile of foods.

  • Large scale agricultural and food processing under attack. Large industrial food producers are under attack from activists.

  • Unfamiliar chemicals. Science is constantly discovering new side-effects of chemicals, which is often cause of great alarm among the public.

  • Functional foods. Improving the nutritional profile of food to offer more health benefits.

  • Nanoscale technology.

  • Malnutrition. Malnutrition is widespread in the developing as well as the developed world.

  • Safety of GRAS (generally recognised as safe) ingredients. Ingredients such as food colouring, which have undergone safety testing in the past, are brought under scrutiny again due to new research.

  • Food biotechnology. New technology in food production and processing, such as genetically modified crops, are constantly brought under question.

Many of these issues are due to the public being uninformed about food science. In his talk Schmidt encouraged members of the food science industry to speak openly about the details of their work in order to minimise public misinformation and fears about the industry.

IUFoST represents the global food science and technology fraternity, by nature a diverse discipline. The World Congress is the biennial gathering of the world's food scientists and major food industry players. The meeting highlights the latest knowledge and developments in various food science sectors and encourage debate and formulation of scientific solutions to global food issues. It is only through sharing that science-based solutions can be jointly facilitated.

- (Wilma Stassen, Health24, August 2010)

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