One of the significant challenges the food science profession faces is to effectively communicate the benefits and value of food research to regulatory agencies, consumers, consumer groups, media, scientists outside of food science, and other food science professionals. A unique message is often required for each of these audiences.
As the sciences related to food science have become more complex and as the expectations of consumers have become more sophisticated, the translation of new research findings into applications has become more challenging, and the need for a proactive approach to communicating food science information is evident.
With this in mind, the Executive Committee approved the following goal for the current year: To mobilize the resources of IFT in becoming proactive in communication of food science information to multiple audiences. This goal focuses on four main areas:
• Evaluation of the types and format of food science information needed by policy-making groups at federal, state, and local levels within the United States.
• Examination of the approaches used in the communication of food science information to the media and consumers, and consideration of IFT’s becoming more proactive in presenting information to these audiences.
• Evaluation of the role of IFT in development of food science policy information for use by international agencies.
• In-depth analysis of approaches to making the Annual Meeting technical program more attractive to industry representatives, with emphasis on translating food science research into industrial applications.
Effective communication of food science research will address a variety of areas.
• Food Safety. Recent outbreaks of foodborne illness related to fresh produce have led to consumer concerns about the safety of all foods. IFT has been successful in disseminating science-based messages to the media to maintain consumers’ confidence regarding the safety of the food supply. Still, there are opportunities for IFT to be more proactive in communication with regulatory agencies and other governmental groups. With leadership from IFT’s Washington Office, Food Science Communicators, Government Affairs Committee, Food Microbiology Division, and Fruit & Vegetable Products Division, we are exploring the most-effective ways to communicate cutting-edge science to all appropriate audiences.
• Nanotechnology. As research outcomes from nanoscale science progress toward applications for foods, there is evidence that consumers may react like they did toward biotechnology. IFT should take a proactive position in communicating applications of nanoscale science to food. Such messages are being developed by IFT’s Nanotechnology Work Group.
• Global Harmonization. IFT has been involved in harmonization of global regulations for foods and food processes for several years as a Non-Governmental Organization within the Codex Alimentarius Commission. IFT’s Global Regulations & Policy Committee and IFT’s Washington Office have led the way in exploring opportunities for IFT to assume a more proactive and leadership position.
The goal is to ensure that the interpretation of science presented to agencies dealing with global regulations represents the consensus of the leading scientists from all regions of the world.
• Basic Research Funding. The future of the food science profession depends on increased funding for basic research in food chemistry, food microbiology, food physics, nutrition, and sensory science. To this end, the entire IFT membership will need to be proactive in demonstrating and communicating the benefits of food science research to legislators at all levels of government.
• Technology Transfer. The effective communication of research outcomes from researchers at universities to their counterparts within industry may require several steps of interpretation. This represents an ideal role for IFT in translating research outcomes into meaningful products and processes.
A symposium on this topic has been proposed for the 2007 IFT Annual Meeting & Food ExpoSM in Chicago this July, with input from several IFT Divisions and the Senior Food Officials Committee.
As the sciences related to food become more complex, the challenges in communication of food science information to an array of audiences have increased. I believe that IFT is now poised to meet those challenges.