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There are four categories of membership in IFT: Member, Professional Member, Student Member, and Emeritus Member. Student membership is reserved for students pursuing a degree in food science or closely related field of study. Emeritus membership is for food science and technology professionals who have completed a career with at least 20 years of contributions to the profession.
The key distinction between Member and Professional Member is the curriculum of study pursued prior to applying for membership. Professional Membership is intended for graduates from "disciplines associated with food science and technology," whereas the Member category is open to anyone "active in any aspect of the food industry." Alternative paths to Professional Membership for graduates from non–food science–related programs involve extended periods of documented contributions to the food science and technology profession. Nominees for leadership positions (Board of Directors and President-Elect) and members of the Committee on Nominations and Elections and other standing committees must be Professional Members.
When the founders created IFT in 1939, the stated purpose of the organization was "to facilitate interchange of ideas among its members; to stimulate scientific investigations into technical problems dealing with the manufacture and distribution of foods, to promulgate the results of research in food technology, to offer a medium for the discussion of these results, and to plan, organize and administer such projects for the advancement of science insofar as it is fundamental to wider knowledge of foods." The stated purpose and related documents clearly established the intimate relationship that has continued for nearly 70 years between IFT and the food science and technology profession.
This relationship has been monitored by the leaders of our organization. Considerable monitoring and guidance has been assigned to the Committee on Higher Education (CHE). Through appointments to this committee, the leadership has ensured that the definitions of food science and food technology have evolved, along with the content of the programs of study recommended for education of food science professionals. This has ensured that the profession has continued to respond to changes in the industry, government, and academia.
The relationship between IFT and the profession should continue to accommodate changes in the food industry, government, and academia. Professional Members should continue to evaluate outcomes from new research and interpret the outcomes in a positive manner for the food industry and consumers. Likewise, they should monitor changes in the food industry and effectively communicate the industry’s needs to members involved in research and to the institutions involved in education of food science professionals.
The role of Professional Membership in IFT should continue to be evaluated and improved. One option is to identify more visible pathways for transition from Member to Professional Member. Continuing-education programs could offer courses to assist in the transition for members with backgrounds in fields other than food science. A simultaneous activity by CHE would focus on evaluating and updating the core competencies defining the undergraduate degree in food science, and on increasing the understanding of changes in the profession.
Today, food science and technology is being influenced by a broad array of basic sciences, such as molecular biology, nutritional sciences, nutrigenomics, metabolomics, proteomics, and nanoscale sciences. As we move forward, IFT must assume the leadership in defining changes in the profession. As potential applications of new science are considered, the impact on the expectations of food science and technology professionals must be evaluated. As new science evolves, we should attempt to accommodate changes in the definition of food science and the scope of the profession.
Professional Members have been key contributors to the relationship between IFT and the food science and technology profession. As the profession continues to change, IFT continuing-education programs can ensure that the entire membership remains informed on key developments in the profession and can provide the pathway for all Members to become Professional Members. These programs should strive to achieve a uniform understanding of food science and technology. Our Continuing Education Advisory Committee and CHE are prepared to provide leadership as the food science and technology profession continues to evolve for another 70 years.
Members who believe that they meet the qualifications for Professional Membership are encouraged to apply for a change of status by visiting www.ift.org/pdfs/prof-app.pdf.
by Dennis R. Heldman,
IFT President, 2006–07
President, Heldman Associates, Weston, Fla.