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As we look ahead to 2024, IFT’s Science and Policy team has forecasted four major science of food trends to watch for. On the horizon are the influence of Farm to Fork strategy on global food system dialogue, a growing Food as Medicine movement, ongoing improvements to the food safety landscape, and advancements in artificial intelligence. As always, creative food science solutions will be essential in delivering safe, nutritious, and sustainable foods, and we expect the science of food community to continue to play a leading role in tackling the challenges ahead. Read on for the most need-to-know trends for the coming year. 

Food systems approaches: Farm to Fork strategy continues to shape the global dialogue on the future of food with its recognition that each component of the food ecosystem is interconnected. From COP28 and the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) World Food Forum to the U.S. Farm Bill and the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, proposed policies, commitments, and investments in food systems approaches will seek to improve food and nutrition security, enhance sustainability, and ensure resiliency. Investing in food science and technology will be key in meeting these goals. We expect to see a continued focus on food loss and waste reduction, as evidenced by the USDA, FDA, and EPA’s recently released draft strategy. Additionally, outcomes from the USDA’s Climate Smart Agriculture investments will begin showing visible progress.  

Food as Medicine: The Food as Medicine movement—which gained steam in the wake of last year’s historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health—highlights the fact that the critical intersection of food and health is quickly moving beyond theory and into application, uniting medical practitioners, advocates, manufacturers, retailers, farmers, and government. Efforts to redefine medical professional nutrition education and establish health insurance connections and pilot programs for produce prescriptions and medically tailored meals have gained momentum and are positioned to become policies in the year ahead.  

Food safety: Ongoing, visible food safety concerns—for example, outbreaks, contaminants, and the widespread presence of manufactured chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—coupled with localized responses like California Assembly Bill 418 (prohibiting the use of certain food chemical additives) demonstrate the need for transformative food safety strategies and systems. This need is underscored by efforts such as the FDA’s Proposal for a Unified Human Foods Program, which recognizes that the rapidly evolving global food supply requires changes that position the agency to respond more quickly and efficiently. Global conversations around risk analysis and assessment will be essential to ensuring harmonized standards as seen in the recent Codex CAC 46 discussions. Embracing a new science-based, technology-enabled food safety system will be required to realize a sustainably safe food supply focused on prevention. 

Artificial intelligence: With its ability to process vast amounts of data, AI will bring forward transformative opportunities in the coming year. As processing and analysis advancements with AI continue and the open access of science expands, new ways of working will be established, requiring new evaluations of ethics and privacy. The need to create frameworks will be essential, and collaborations across policy makers, technology platforms, and end users will be a key focus. AI will have an impact on food systems that the science of food community should prepare for and embrace. 

Read more about IFT’s engagement in the areas above, including our white paper on food loss and waste and our latest report, Sustainable Production of Nutritious Foods Through Processing Technology

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