Since the establishment of the Institute of Food Technologists’ Office of Science, Communications, and Government Relations (OSCGR) and the grand opening of IFT’s office in Washington, D.C. in October 2000—only 18 months ago—IFT has established more than an address in our nation’s capital. OSCGR, which includes the Science and Communications Department in Chicago, has been hard at work raising IFT’s visibility as the leading advocate for science on food-related issues.
IFT’s scientific publications and accompanying documents targeted to specific audiences provide the substance and often the means to reach numerous constituencies, from Congressional staff to heads of government agencies and beyond. IFT’s first two Expert Reports, initiated with the establishment of OSCGR, provide comprehensive, “state-of-the-science” views on highly charged public policy issues in need of an infusion of clearly articulated, science-based information amid misinformation and political rhetoric.
We had barely opened our doors when, upon release of the Biotechnology and Foods report, IFT was invited to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. More recently, Henry Bonilla, Chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, discussed the Expert Report, Emerging Microbiological Food Safety Issues: Implications for Control in the 21st Century, with Elsa Murano, USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety, during a hearing and entered the entire report into the public record.
Similarly, the outcome of work conducted through our contract with the Food and Drug Administration—providing FDA our review and analysis of topics in food safety, food processing, and public health—not only assists the agency in developing policies based on the state of the science, but also advances the discussion of these particularly challenging issues within the scientific community.
OSCGR strives daily to achieve IFT’s long-range goal of being “acknowledged and respected as a supporter of organizations with common interests.” Through active participation in agricultural research funding coalitions, we have already helped broaden the scope of and created a paradigm shift in agricultural research—from production agriculture to the entire farm-to-table continuum. Our coalitions with other organizations also raise awareness among policymakers and others of the field of food science and technology, significant advancements, and the potential to solve challenges facing the country.
Thus, with the combination of regularly issued “state-of-the-science” documents, such as our Expert Reports and Scientific Status Summaries, other high-profile events (such as our Congressional Support for Science Award), and our daily meetings and activities around the beltway, IFT is becoming a valued voice in the Washington, D.C., and an effective advocate for food science and technology.
Highlights of OSCGR efforts during the past year are listed in the sidebar below. Refer to Food Technology, Journal of Food Science, and IFT’s Web site (www.ift.org) for more information on these activities.
• Convened the 4th Annual Chief Research Officers’ meeting, Partnership for Growth, June 2001.
• Attracted more than 100 journalists to the Annual Meeting & Food Expo, resulting in 18 separate articles published or broadcast in nearly 1,000 consumer news outlets.
International Food Safety and Quality Conference and Expo
• Assisted in planning and publicizing the event, February 2002.
• Presented 2002 Congressional Support for Science Awards to U.S. Representatives Charles W. Stenholm of Texas and Nick Smith of Michigan.
• Presented 2001-02 Congressional Science Fellowship to Monica Fanjoy of Research Triangle Institute, who is now serving on the staff of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
• Participated in the Congressional Black Caucus Issue Forum—“Is There a Future for African Americans in Agriculture?” with representation by Gloria Brooks-Ray, September 27, 2001.
• Participated in the 6th Annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day, May 2002.
• Issued expert report, Emerging Microbiological Food Safety Issues: Implications for Control in the 21st Century, February 2002.
• Submitted to FDA the report, Evaluation and Definition of Potentially Hazardous Foods, December 2001 (published in Journal of Food Science, December 2001).
• Issued Scientific Status Summary, Food Allergies and Other Food Sensitivities, September 2001 (published in Food Technology, September 2001).
• Issued Scientific Status Summary, Parasites and the Food Supply, April 2002 (published in Food Technology, April 2002).
• Fielded 250 news media inquiries in 2001. Rate of inquiries increased in 2002 to nearly 7 per week.
• Fielded 615 scientific and technical inquiries in 2001 and 215 during the first quarter of 2002.
• Expanded IFT’s role in Codex Alimentarius, participating in meetings of Codex committees on Food Hygiene, Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods, Food Additives and Contaminants, Food Labeling, Pesticide Residues, and the ad hoc Task Force on Biotechnology and Foods, and providing critical data on food additives.
by FRED R. SHANK
IFT Vice President, Science, Communications, and