Fred R. Shank

The IFT Task Force on Food Science in Washington articulated the vision for our Washington, D.C., presence, and we are carefully following that vision as we enter the Washington scene.

An enhanced program related to government affairs must contribute effectively to the scientific integrity of government policies and programs related to food science and technology. IFT is in a unique position to accomplish this, drawing on the expertise of its members in academia, industry, and government and other experts to articulate scientific issues, develop recommendations, and actively promote a consensus view.

The initial goals presented to support this vision are as follows:
Increase the visibility and recognition of IFT as the leading scientific and professional-based source of information for food science and technology-related government activities.

Advocate the scientific perspective on government food-related issues.

Effectively capitalize on and expand opportunities for IFT to address government food-related issues.

Expand opportunities to involve IFT members and develop an effective grass-roots network to enhance IFT’s role in government programs and policies related to food science and technology.

IFT is able to provide the expertise from all stakeholders in the food segment, in a way that few organizations can. IFT can call on leading authorities in food science and technology, such as experts in food safety, microbiology, chemistry, toxicology, engineering, and sensory evaluation. The expanded government affairs program will draw on the scientific resources of IFT and its experiences in government relations. Unlike a trade association, a professional society can concentrate exclusively on the scientific and public good aspects of government activities. IFT will accomplish this in a manner that enhances its stature and the value of membership in the organization.

The demands for science-based information regarding food safety will be substantial. The decision to become involved, including the determination of the appropriate role for IFT, was not undertaken lightly. It will require leadership, resources, and constant understanding of the issues and their relationship to our members. The ability to assess food issues by their scientific merit and to identify key scientific questions is critical, and priority setting will be paramount.

An Advisory Board for IFT’s new Office of Science, Communications, and Government Relations is being established. It will comprise nine IFT members who have high stature in industry, academia, and government who together will provide expertise in science, governmental affairs, communications, industrial science, and international issues; the immediate past IFT Congressional Fellow; and the following ex officio members—the IFT President, President-Elect, Immediate Past President, Executive Vice President, Vice President of Science, Communications, and Government Relations, Treasurer, and, as liaisons, the chairs of the Food Science Communicators, Codex Alimentarius Committee, and the Expert Panel on Food Safety and Nutrition. Of the nine members mentioned above, three will be appointed each year for three-year terms, to produce a rotation of one-third annually.

Guided by IFT’s strategic plan, the Board will establish goals, determine top program priorities, and provide guidance on strategies, while ensuring the scientific credibility and fiscal responsibility of the program. In the future, this leadership role will be effective in directing all IFT government, science, and technology programs.

The Office of Science, Communications, and Government Relations will operate in a flexible manner to accommodate multiple needs and developing opportunities. The very successful management principles that have served IFT well in the past will continue. There will be a close working relationship with Divisions. The top science experts among members will be our resources. The highly effective and efficient use of short-term working groups to address a particular topic will be the mode of operation. We will be distinguished in our service, effective in coalition building, and very visible, while being successful in developing effective and long-term relationships. The success of this newly formed office will be judged by our constituencies, the most important of which are the IFT members. The primary objectives will be to serve our members and strengthen the organization.

Progress is being made toward acquiring permanent offices in Washington for occupancy this spring. We have begun contract negotiations on space that is conveniently located in central Washington with easy access to the Metro system. In the meantime, we will operate out of a temporary office, developing plans for the permanent office, including providing for the expanded functions, relocation, and recruitment for a few key positions. We expect the permanent office to be fully staffed and operational by September 1, 2000.

Vice President, Science, Communications, and Government Relations