In the shadow of Disneyland fun park the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) opened the doors to the Annual Meeting and Expo and looked set to welcome an anticipated crowd of 20,000 this week in Anaheim, California.
Food science is a field whose time has come. Or at least this was the message from Keynote Speaker Joseph Jen, US Dept. of Agriculture Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics, on Saturday night for the attendees of IFT's Annual Meeting and Food Expo Opening Event.
"Much like this year's IFT theme, 'A Gold Mine of Innovation and Knowledge' implies, I, too, believe that today opportunities abound for food scientists and technologists in this country and around the world," he said. "The time is right for food science," Jen said.
Agriculture is now less commodity driven and instead more consumer driven, Jen said. Consumers are concerned about the quality, price, convenience, safety, nutrition, and environmental impact of the food they eat.
"These consumer needs and concerns are helping to direct future research efforts and are creating unprecedented opportunities for scientists working in all fields of agriculture, particularly for those working in food science and technology," he said. "Consumers are continually demanding more variety, nutrition, and convenience from the food they eat."
Trying to improve the American diet is also a challenge to the industry, Jen said. Although nutritional deficiencies in diets have been reduced, it has been replaced by other poor dietary practices, particularly excessive and unbalanced eating resulting in obesity and increased risk of health problems, he said. "According to USDA's healthy Eating Index nearly seven out of every eight Americans (all but 12%) have poor diets or are in need of improving the nutritional quality of their diet," he said.
"Science is the foundation of our entire food and agricultural system, and food scientists and technologists are the cornerstones within that structure," Jen concluded.
The Expo will run until June 19, 2002.