Food science has changed substantially since IFT was founded 75 years ago in 1939. “The first change is the increasing depth of the science behind our profession or that underlies our profession. That’s true not only in issues such as microbiology … think of all the foodborne illnesses that we didn’t even know about 50 or 60 years ago,” declared Richard L. Hall, IFT President 1971–72, during a videotaped interview with Robert B. Gravani, IFT President 2010–11. “Second is the influence of the vast improvements of analytical chemistry. Third, the profession has become far more open. Look at all the women who are professionals now as compared with the beginning of IFT.”
“What are the biggest innovations in food science and technology over the past 75 years?” asked Gravani. “The increasing depth of knowledge in virtually every aspect of food science, from nutrition to safety issues, microbiological and toxicological,” noted Hall. “Water activity was not even mentioned years ago.”
“What do you see as the biggest challenges facing our profession today?” asked Gravani. “We have a lot to choose from. The one I would pick would be to point out that inevitably as water gets scarce with climate change … food is inevitably going to become more expensive and we are going to have to make choices and the biggest thing the profession can contribute in my view is to make sure that safe, nutritious food is available at the lowest possible cost and is so attractive that people choose it of their own will,” stated Hall. “They do not have to be told it’s better for them.”
“People have different definitions of sustainability. I like to use the definition of optimum use of resources to achieve the desired end,” explained John H. Litchfield, IFT President 1991–92 during a videotaped interview with Dennis R. Heldman, IFT President 2006–07. “For example, we have water resources. How do we achieve optimum use of these [water] to fulfill the requirements of the food industry and yet prepare products that consumers like to buy and eat. This is one working definition because it extends all the way from the point of production in agriculture right through to the consumer at home. This is a very broad range of activities but they all contribute to this sustainability question.”
“Our population will increase to 9 billion by the year 2050, and the challenge is going to be how to deliver the amount of food that’s going to be needed for that population. We also know that we are going to have to do that in a period of history where the resources are even more limited than they have been in the past. What is the focus of research and other technologies that are going to be needed in order to allow us achieve that?” asked Heldman.
“First, a little historical background. Only about 2% of the water on this planet is fresh water. The bulk of the water is saline water,” explained Litchfield. “This puts a constraint on what we can do to feed the population because we only have finite water resources. Secondly, we have to consider how this water will be distributed, who will have access to it, how much will they pay. This is a critical issue for the food industry.
“The technologies that can be evolved here we have available to us now. Many of them have to be improved. But we have, for example, purification processes of waste streams by biological and biochemical processes. We can purify the effluents by membrane technology, such as microfiltration and nano-filtration. The challenge is how do we improve the membranes to make them more durable and have less fouling problems … how do we disinfect the water coming from these operations,” stated Litchfield.”
“The peer-reviewed journal [Journal of Food Science] came before the society [IFT]. That really shows the importance of it,” noted Daryl B. Lund, IFT President 1990–91, during a videotaped interview with Allen Foegeding, Editor-in-Chief, IFT Scientific Journals. “Food Research is the original name of the Journal of Food Science and it started in 1936. IFT didn’t start until 1939. So what happened was that these authors, who had important research to get out to their peers and to the public, began to have discussions among themselves and they said that we ought to have a way of getting together to talk about this research to each other. IFT actually emerged from the peer-reviewed journal.
“It’s virtually impossible to think of a professional society without a vehicle for their members to get their peer-reviewed research out in the public so it can be analyzed, used, and passed on,” explained Lund.