The Institute of Food Technologists previously issued several reports on research needs in food science and technology (see sidebar). A subsequent task force appointed to update these reports has now issued its report.

With the thought in mind that the overall mission of food science and technology is “to create the new knowledge required to deliver the safe and health-enhancing foods needed to improve the quality of life of the consumer,” the Task Force on Research Needs in Food Science and Technology concluded that future research must emphasize a more fundamental understanding of the chemistry, microbiology, and physical properties of food. In addition, an improved understanding of the consumer, with emphasis on factors that influence the consumer’s diet and health, given the growing problem of obesity, will be essential.

As new science and technology are discovered or evolve, the task force said, the challenges to the food industry will be to find effective mechanisms to interpret and use the new information in a manner that responds to the needs in a timely and efficient manner. An additional important outcome from the research will be tools that reduce the time and cost for development of the products that can respond to consumer expectations and help thwart any bioterrorism attack.

Addressing Basic Questions
The task force said that research conducted by the food industry, independent laboratories, government laboratories, and universities must address the following basic questions:
How can the food quality expectations of consumers be evaluated more efficiently and translated into quantitative quality attributes?

How can the desired flavor and texture attributes of foods be developed and delivered to the consumer?

How can new and improved technologies be used to reduce food safety risks?

How can consumer expectations for health enhancement through the diet be met?

• How can the development of new products and product modifications be accomplished more efficiently and in a timely manner?

How can the introduction of improved processes and technologies into commercial operations be accomplished in a more efficient manner?

What research issues must be addressed to assist in the prevention and detection of intentional delivery of substances into the food chain that result in harm to consumers and disruption of the economy?

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The task force said that these challenges are likely to be affected by research outcomes from other disciplines, such as the following:

Outcomes from research in molecular biology and biotechnology should provide new tools to improve food safety, create new ingredients, or develop functional foods that deliver health benefits.

Identification of the human genome and food–gene interactions is likely to affect the regulation of biochemical processes in the body and should provide new tools to respond to the challenges of obesity.

Combinatorial chemistry and computational chemistry should provide new tools to improve ingredient functionality and more efficient food ingredient selection.

New structure-identification technologies, structure-manipulation technologies, and probing technologies, such as nanotechnology and ultrasound, should provide tools to be used in gaining a better understanding of food texture or increasing the bioavailability of health-enhancing ingredients.

Computational sciences are likely to provide important tools for design of food processing equipment and mapping of food delivery systems to identify product position in the food chain and improve the effectiveness of recalls when consumer health is threatened.

Novel food preservation technologies, with multiple sources of energy, and hybrid food preservation technologies should provide opportunities for development of more-efficient processes, as well as new products with more-desirable quality attributes.

Advances in microelectronics based on organic substrates for on-line and package sensors will allow detection of pathogens, toxins, and bioterrorism agents, and radiofrequency identification (RFID) tags will carrying product information on product packages throughout the food chain.

High-Priority Research Needs
The task force identified the following high-priority research needs in food science and technology:

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Identification and characterization of the key food components that define quality attributes, influence product safety, and enhance consumer health.
Specific areas of research include:
Investigation of the relationships between sensory attributes of foods and the physical/chemical properties of the product ingredients.

Identification of pathogens or agents in foods and food ingredients that have negative impact on consumer health or cause disruption of the economy through food bioterrorism.

Identification of specific constituents in foods and food ingredients that have positive impact on consumer health, as well as improved understanding of the mechanisms of phytochemicals in disease prevention.

Integration of information on potentially harmful components in foods with analytical methods to identify the compounds and respond to government and consumer concerns by removal or reduction of risks created during processing.

Development of new technologies to identify food ingredients that respond to the challenge of continuous enhancement of health aspects of foods.

Quantification of kinetics parameters for changes in quality attributes during processes, removal of components related to safety of products, and determining the fate of health-enhancing components during delivery to bioactive sites within the body.
Specific areas of research include:
Establishment of kinetic models and parameters to describe changes in sensory attributes of foods and food ingredients for conditions during handling, processing, storage, and distribution, including parameters needed for accelerated shelf-life evaluation.

Development of kinetic models and parameters for microbial populations during exposure to unique environments associated with alternative preservation processes.

Investigation of the kinetics of changes in phytochemicals and similar health-enhancing constituents in foods and food ingredients during handling, processing, storage, and distribution.

Exploration of the kinetics of changes in constituents of food and food ingredients during metabolic processes within the body.

Development of package sensors that monitor food safety and product shelf life during storage and distribution.

Development of methods for decontamination of process equipment, transport vehicles, retail display areas, and food products in response to a bioterrorism event.

Development of transport process models for food products, incorporating outcomes from molecular biology and parameters describing preservation processes, and including the delivery of key food components to bioactive sites within the body. Specific areas of research include:

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Development of instrumentation and biosensors, preferably for noninvasive measurements, and measurement of engineering and physical properties of foods and constituent macromolecules as required for characterization.

Improved understanding of heat, mass, and momentum transport processes at various boundaries within biological systems.

Development of models for transport processes and microscale phenomena that can be generalized for the various food constituents and used to minimize the need for trial-and-error approaches to evaluation of processes.

Characterization of molecular thermodynamic models for food components and control of reactions under various environmental conditions.

Development of predictive models for optimizing retention of quality attributes, removal of components influencing product safety, and delivery of health-enhancing components, including knowledge of bioavailability of key food components.
Specific areas of research include:
Development and verification of integrated process models for prediction of microbial populations during new and evolving alternative preservation processes.

Development of dependable integrated process models for predicting growth of microbial pathogens during handling, storage, and distribution of refrigerated foods and for developing package sensors that function as safety alarms.

Investigation of integrated process models for shelf-life prediction, including such limits on shelf life such as nutritional components, sensory attributes, other product quality attributes, and safety.

Development and verification of integrated process models for prediction of changes in phytochemicals during delivery of the food constituent to a specific bioactive site within the body.

Design of strategies, including the selection of processing technologies, to optimize positive quality attributes and minimize undesirable characteristics of foods.
Specific areas of research include development of integrated process models that provide the opportunity for the food manufacturer to:

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Select the ingredients needed to develop food products with attributes attractive to consumers.

Establish the process parameters needed to optimize the quality attributes in the food product.

Evaluate the influence of environmental factors during metabolism on the delivery of product constituents to appropriate sites within the body.

Ensure maximum efficiency of the process.

Install process control systems designed to manufacture foods with consistently high quality attributes.

Incorporate new sensor systems and on-line analytical tools to detect nature-derived food pathogens or contaminants, as well as intentional contaminants.

Research Will Provide Needed Tools
Successful food science and technology research will provide the food industry with tools needed to address current and future challenges. Research will provide:
The ability to efficiently and effectively translate consumer expectations of quality attributes into product improvements and new products.

A physico-chemical understanding of the interactions among product ingredients and process parameters, as needed to create products with improved flavors and textures.

The tools needed to select process technologies to ensure maximum food product safety, with minimum risk to the consumer from both nature-derived and intentional threats to the food supply.

An understanding of the health-enhancing components of foods and food ingredients, as needed to ensure that these components are delivered to the consumer in an effective manner.

The tools required to reduce the time and cost for development of improved products and new products and their introduction into commercial operations.

The tools for scale-up of improved technologies and new products, with maximum efficiency for success.

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Articles on Research Needs
The following are articles on research needs identified by IFT committees and Research Summit participants:
Heldman, D.R. and Newsome, R.L. 2003. Kinetic models for microbial survival during processing. Food Technol. 57(8): 40-46, 100.

IFT. 1993. America’s food research needs: Into the 21st century. Food Technol. 47(3): 1S-40S.

IFT. 2001. Diet and health research needs. Food Technol. 55(5): 189-191.

Liska, B.J. and Marion, W.W. 1985. America’s food research: An agenda for action. Food Technol. 39(6): 1R-44R.

MacAulay, J. and Newsome, R. 2004. Solving the obesity conundrum. Food Technol. 58(6): 32-37.

Newsome, R.L. 2003. Dormant microbes: Research needs. Food Technol. 57(6): 38-42.

IFT Task Force on Research Needs in Food Science and Technology
Dennis R. Heldman, Ph.D. (Chair), Principal, Heldman Associates, San Marcos, Calif.

Al S. Clausi, Ph.D., IFT Past President, Retired Senior Vice President, General Foods Corp., Greenwich, Conn.

Jozef L. Kokini, Ph.D., Professor II, Chair and Director, Dept of Food Science and CAFT, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.

Theodore P. Labuza, Ph.D., IFT Past President, Morse Alumni Distinguished Professor of Food Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota, St. Paul

Syed S. H. Rizvi, Ph.D., International Professor of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Kenneth L. Swartzel, Ph.D., William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Food Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

by Dennis R. Heldman, Ph.D.
The author, Chair of the IFT Task Force on Research Needs in Food Science and Technology, is Principal, Heldman Associates, 1667 Portside Pl., San Marcos CA 92078([email protected]).