During my 40 years working in many parts of the world, I’ve been fascinated by the convergence on many food science issues, especially food safety. This is partly due to the globalization of our food supply and the increasing speed of communication fostered by the Internet. So we have a dichotomy, with more commonality in the issues, yet a more complex supply requiring rapid communication.
This year, IFT will continue to be a leader in food safety by focusing on the science of food and its impact throughout the food system. Key elements of that strategy are to continue our work with the federal government on food product tracing, expand efforts to educate consumers through our Food Science Communicators, and keep food science professionals up-to-date with all of our publications, including this issue of Food Technology.
In one of our most high-profile contracts, we are leading the FDA food product tracing pilots mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act. For this contract, we organized an oversight panel, cost panel, produce panel, and processed food panel. The panels met last spring, and about 80 food companies participated in the pilots with 50 subject matter experts. We also worked with dozens of providers of product tracing technology. In June, IFT submitted a final report to the FDA with recommendations for improving food product tracing, and it was accepted. Moving forward, this report will serve as an important
foundation for science-based public policy initiatives.
In recognition of our leading role in food product tracing, several organizations have invited IFT leaders to speak about the latest research and developments. Those presentations have been made at the American Bakers Association in Chicago, Ill.; Underwriters Laboratories Annual Meeting in Chicago; Food Safety Summit in Washington, D.C.; Produce Traceability Initiative Leadership Council in Dallas, Texas; Annual American Oil Chemists’ Society Meeting and Expo in Long Beach, Calif; and GS1 Connect 2012 Conference in Las Vegas, Nev.
As part of our ongoing National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD) grant, food processing and packaging companies have been collecting and supplying their traceability data to IFT. This data is being used to test the ability of technology solutions to share data (interoperability) in the event that a threat to public health occurs. While several technologies claim to be interoperable, to our knowledge, this is the first pilot to test and demonstrate this capability within the realm of food product tracing in the United States. More information about all of IFT’s traceability-related initiatives can be found at www.ift.org/traceability.
In another task order with FDA, we are conducting tabletop exercises and workshops using the Food Related Emergency Exercise (FREE-B) tool IFT developed for a previous task order. FREE-B is designed to assist stakeholders in assessing existing food emergency response plans, protocols, and procedures, or to assist in the revising or development of a food emergency response plan. As a part of this task order, we shared our communications expertise to develop a promotional video highlighting the benefits of FREE-B, and we developed turnkey food defense press release templates for use by the FDA. You can see the video and learn more about FREE-B in the Knowledge Center on ift.org. Ultimately, this will help us all respond rapidly in a world requiring instantaneous information.
IFT is reaching out directly to consumers through our Food Science Communicators. They respond to news media requesting interviews on food safety issues in the headlines. Our Food Science Communicators also are helping us develop a series of videos for our consumer web page, www.iftfoodfacts.org, to promote food safety tips that we call Food Facts. Some of the topics include proper egg handling, food storage temperatures, heating food in a microwave, and dealing with leftovers. This complements the World Without Food Science video series, which shows consumers what would happen if we were faced with a world without food science advances. Check out Bob Brackett on food safety at www.worldwithoutfoodscience.org.
In December, we will meet in Arlington, Va., for our 2012 Food Policy Impact conference. Our Advisory Panel has helped to create an interesting program that covers food safety, labeling, marketing, and other topics most relevant to food policy professionals. I hope you plan to join us.
IFT President, 2012–2013