Food Science, Technology Contribute to Feeding A Growing Population

On October 16, the world will celebrate World Food Day, which is designed to increase awareness and motivate year-around action to alleviate hunger. In 2010, IFT published a Scientific Review discussing the importance of food science and technology in feeding a growing population. Recently, Kelly Hensel, Digital Media Editor at IFT, spoke with one of the main authors of the review, John Floros, to discuss this important global issue. John has worked in the food processing industry, was on the faculty at Purdue University, and since 2000 he has been leading the Department of Food Science at Pennsylvania State University.  He is widely published, is currently a Member of the Science Board for the Food & Drug Administration, and a Fellow and Past President of IFT.

John FlorosJohn Floros
Professor of Food Process Engineering and Packaging
Head of the Department of Food Science
The Pennsylvania State University

*Update: As of Aug. 1, 2012, Floros is Dean of College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension at Kansas State University

Listen to Part 2 of the interview with John Floros.

Resources:

Transcription:

Kelly: Hi, I am Kelly Hensel with the Institute of Food Technologists. On October 16, the world will celebrate World Food Day, which is designed to increase awareness and inspire action to alleviate hunger.
Last year, IFT published a Scientific Review discussing the importance of food science and technology in feeding a growing population. Today, we are joined by one of the main authors of the review, John Floros, to discuss this important global issue.
John has worked in the food processing industry. Was on the faculty of Purdue University and since 2000 he has been leading the Department of Food Science at Pennsylvania State University. He is widely published, is a currently a member of the Science Board with the Food and Drug Administration, and a Fellow and past President of IFT. Welcome John.
John: I am glad to be here.
Kelly: So the theme of this year’s World Food Day is “Food Prices: From Crisis to Stability.” What role could food scientists and IFT play in assuring an affordable food supply today and in the future?
John: The food system is a very complex system. One of the things that food science and technology has allowed us to do is to build that complex system in a way that is flexible enough to really respond to all sorts of problems out there, such as drought for example, or floods, or lower productivity from the farm. In response to that, this flexible food system has been able to really feed the population in this country as well as most of the people on earth, maybe not all, but a very large number of the population, at fairly affordable prices.
We have, I think today, probably the most inexpensive food supply we have ever had in our history. Now having said that, that is not the case for the rest of the world. In some parts of the world, people still pay very, very high prices compared to their disposable income to feed themselves. So, we have a long way to go to really help the world feed itself. But, food science and technology with a number of different things that we have done have contributed to this flexible, very robust, and very resilient food system.
Kelly: Part of what makes the food system so robust is developments such as aseptic processing and packaging, food fortification, and freeze-drying. In your opinion, what are some of the most significant contributions that food science has made towards feeding a growing population?
John: If you take the contributions of pasteurization and sterilization all the way from the era of Napoleon and Nicholas Appert to Pasteur and on and on, food science and technology is really the discipline that allowed us to understand the relation between temperature and microbes. Between temperature and food quality and how can we use temperature to really produce safe food, to extend the shelf life of food products, to really treat food products so that we produce a product without pathogens, with very little destruction of nutrients.
Kelly: And obviously we know that it takes more than very innovative food scientists to feed the world. For example, this year the 25th Annual Food Prize is being presented to the former Presidents of Ghana and Brazil for creating and implementing government policies that alleviated hunger and poverty in their countries. So, it does take the contributions of government leaders. How can food scientists and technologists, and IFT work with governments and NGOs to insure future food security for all?
John: First and foremost, I think we need as food scientists and food technologists, and as IFT, to convince governments and other entities to invest more in food science and technology research.
The second thing we can do is really to help governments and NGO’s reduce food loss. The system we have in this country (and in most developed countries such as Europe and Japan and Australia) … the amount of food that is lost between the farm and the consumer’s table is very small. In other parts of the world (in developing countries such as Asia and Africa), those losses can be very, very significant. Although we use the land, we use the water, we use the energy to produce the food, we don’t have the means in those areas to then take that and preserve it and deliver it to the consumer.
So, as a result of that, we experience 20% and 30% and 40% losses of the material that we produce and could consume but it never does get to be consumed. So, I would say we have an important role to play in helping government and countries and NGOs to reduce those losses.
Kelly: Well I want to thank you John for taking the time to talk to us and offering your insight today.
We have been talking to John Floros, head of the Department of Food Science at Penn State University. Please stay tuned for part two, where John and I will discuss some challenges and promising developments on the horizon.
You can share your thoughts on today’s topic by commenting on IFT’s ePerspective blog. For more information on World Food Day, visit www.ift.org\worldfoodday. For IFT, I am Kelly Hensel.

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