Popularity of Ethnic Foods: A Cause for Concern?

June 30, 2008

New Orleans  –  June 30, 2008 – Ethnic foods constitute one of the fastest growing segments of the food service industry. The rise of ethnic dining establishments throughout the nation presents barriers to the food inspection process. Consequently, U.S. inspectors who may be unfamiliar with ethnic foods and customs can experience shock and uncertainty upon entering ethnic restaurants serving traditional dishes prepared with items such as fertilized poultry eggs, live eels and frogs, and animal genitalia.

Rather than compelling immigrants from different countries to abandon all of their customs and culinary traditions, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working with different ethnicities to develop standards and regulations that allow the continuation of ethnic traditions in a way that minimizes foodborne illnesses and maintains the safety of food preparers and restaurant patrons.
 
A symposium at this year’s Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo addressed the issues regulators face when dealing with ethnic establishments. FDA Regional Food Specialist Kimberly Livsey discussed the safety of ethnic foods in the United States. She identified many foods commonly found in Caribbean, Latin American, Asian and African dining establishments and offered suggestions to evaluate the preparation of these foods. Livsey also apprised conference attendees of the customs and gestures that Americans frequently use that may be offensive to ethnic proprietors, which could then hinder complete disclosure and thorough inspections.

Now in its 68th year, the IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo ® is the largest annual scientific meeting and technical exposition of its kind.  Last year the Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Chicago attracted nearly 20,000 attendees. This year more than 1,000 scientific and technical presentations will be given while the Food Expo ® will feature nearly 1,000 exhibiting companies.  Attendees include professionals in R&D and other scientific/technical positions as well as corporate management, packaging, nutrition, purchasing, higher education, government/regulatory, and several other scientific disciplines.

Contact:
Kimberly Livsey
FDA Regional Food Specialist                   
Phone  (404) 253-1273
klivsey@ora.fda.gov

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About IFT
Founded in 1939, and with world headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, USA, the Institute of Food Technologists is a not-for-profit international scientific society with 22,000 members working in food science and technology and related professions in industry, academia and government. As the society for food science and technology, IFT brings sound science to the public discussion of food issues.