First, let me thank the organizing committee and Scott Hurd in particular for inviting me to speak about food systems. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will also admit that I am not an expert on the matter of Food Systems . However, I am a believer in the construct and believe that as the food systems become more complex, food scientists need to be more keenly aware of its intricacies.
The concept of modern food systems is not new. We all know about the Farm to Fork or Field to Table catch phrases that have been used and overused. Food system models attempt to describe the relationship between agricultural, industrial, economic, ecological, social and health issues. More recently, the concept of food systems has been expanded to nutrition outcomes, to recognize the that Sustenance and Health are the main outcomes of food systems.
Although we originated 150,000 years ago, it was not before 11,000BC that humans shifted from being hunter and gatherers to cultivating crops and domesticating animals for food.Agriculture has been the major driving force in the growth of civilization and has experiences times of prosperity and times of hardship throughout history. Times of hardship came off and on for centuries as growth in food production competed with population growth. However, changing climates, droughts, flooding and diseases have always on food systems.
During the 20th century, food systems have dramatically globalized. For the past 50 years, food systems have become extremely specialized and mechanized. Farms for examples, went from being highly diversified in the 1950s to now be highly specialized, often dealing with a single commodity.Tremendous gains in productivity were realized throughout the system from improved genetics and cultural practices to processing and distributionThis has resulted in enormous amounts of food being produced by less than 2% of our population.
There are several models used to describe food systems. Food chains are easy to represent but fail to capture the complexity of modern food systems. Food cycles can sometime be appropriate but also have the issue of dealing with complexity. Food webs are probably a more realistic representation but not necessarily easy to interpret.
The food and nutrition systems can be divided in 3 sub-systems. The producer sub-system which deals with production aspects of crops and animals as well as the transformation of crops and animals to food (i.e. food processing). The consumer sub-system deals with distribution, retail, preparation and consumption of the food. The nutrition subsystem deals with the transformation of food by the body to provide nutrients. The outcome of the food and nutrition system is wellbeing and health or lack thereof. I will comment here that food scientists deal with the transformation of crop to food at the end of producer sub-system which is a rather narrow scope of the whole system. Food scientists are often well versed in the sciences which make them likely to understand earlier components of the producer sub-system (i.e., production agriculture). However, most food scientists are probably ill-equipped to deal with the consumer and nutrition sub-systems.
First, the increased complexities of the systems make them more difficult to control. There is also the issue of public perception (Consumer sub-system) of the food system which is rather poor in this country.Third is the population challenge. By some estimates, food production worldwide will have to increase by 70% to feed the 9-billion people that are projected to occupy the planel by 2050.As a result, scientific and technological advances need to accelerated in time where funding for research is contracting.
Up to the 1980s, the research model for food science was commodity based. Some dealt with met science, some with vegetable crops, others with grains. Because of the evolution of the basic sciences, it became necessary for researchers to become specialized in core sciences. However, this came at the expense of knowledge of food systems. This does not necessarily mean that we have regressed as the discipline model has allowed for a much greater understanding about the science in food. To maintain the same level of research relevance to the food system, multi-disciplinary collaborations have become crucial.
We believe that placing food processing at the center of research efforts will result in greater relevance to the food industry and greater potential for multidisciplinary. This is a model that I have promoted with my colleagues as a way to create collaborative research efforts. I believe that we have made significant strides in our department.
The 19th and 20th century were times of great progress in food processing.
If we go back to the Food and Nutrition system discussed earlier, I believe that the 5 core science disciplines of food science are essential to answering food systems research questions. However, the model centered around food processing is not sufficient and we need to be aware of what happens before and after a food is processed.
I believe that research in food safety probably spans the greatest proportion of the Food and Nutrition system out of all the core food science disciplines…from breeding for crops or animals that may be more or less susceptible to pathogen hosting to production practices that may impact microbial ecology, to processing technologies to control pathogens, to distribution and retail systems minimizing food safety issues, to employee and consumer education, to traceability. The food safety discipline embodies the need for system research.
I would argue that we are not doing very well…at least not enough. Overall, there is not enough time within a bachelor’s degree to learn it all. Since I started my career, the number of hours required to graduate with a BS degree decreased by 12 hours or four 3 hour classes. These classes were critical to broaden students’ viewpoint. The end result is the devaluation of a bachelor’s degree and the increased necessity to attend graduate school.
These are our department’s educational goals for a BS in Food Science. The first 4 are technical while the last 2 are soft skills necessary to be successful in industry. There is not mention here about food systems except for Goal 2 or understanding agriculture or distribution, retail, consumers and very little about nutrition and people we feed.
What would it take to ensure that our students understand food and nutrition systems? Graduates that understand production agriculture issues that are relevant to careers in the food industry, graduates who understand distribution and retail channels, who demonstrate knowledge of retail and food service industries, understand factors influencing consumer attitudes and behaviors, demonstrate knowledge of factors contributing to health and wellness in developed and developing countries and are knowledgeable about challenges facing worldwide food systems. I am not sure how we mange the implementation but achieving this would yield more competent food scientists.
If you really want to get in the complexities of food systems…this should get you started. Thank you.
The Role of Food Science in Food Systems Research and Education
THE ROLE OF
FOOD SCIENCE IN
Professor & Head, Food Science
Arkansas Association for Food
WHAT IS THE FOOD SYSTEM ?
The concept is widely used to describe the broad set of activities
involved in providing food for sustenance.
The series of transformations involved in food systems have been
characterized by statements such as FARM to FORK, FIELD to
TABLE or LAND to MOUTH
Models for food systems are conceptual tools for thinking about
relationships between agricultural, industrial, economic,
ecological, social, and health issues
The concept of Food System has been extended to Food and
Nutrition Systems to recognize that the consumption of food leads
to health outcomes
HISTORY OF FOOD SYSTEMS
Homo sapiens originated 150,000 years ago.
However, it was not before 11,000 BCE that
humans started the shift from hunter
gatherers to cultivating crops and
domesticating animals for food production.
Agriculture has been a driving force in the
growth of civilization but has swayed
between times of prosperity and hardship
Increase in global food production competed
against population growth (boom and bust, resulting
in periodic famines up to the 19th century in Europe)
Changing climates, droughts, flooding, diseases,
HISTORY OF FOOD SYSTEMS
Throughout the 20th century, food systems
have globalized. In the past 60 years, food
systems have become more specialized
Gains in productivity were realized
throughout the system from production
practices (specialization) to food processing
Resulting in enormous amounts of food
being produced with minimal amount of
FOOD & NUTRITION SYSTEM
Definition: The set of operations and processes involved in
transforming raw materials into foods and transforming nutrients
into health outcomes, all of which function as a system within
biophysical and sociocultural contexts.
TYPES OF FOOD SYSTEMS
Adapted from Sobal,
Khan and Bisogni,
CHALLENGES OF MODERN FOOD
Incredibly vast (global) and complex
Poor public perception in the US:
Uneasiness with technology
Low level of science literacy
Increased prevalence of obesity
Use of additives in food
Little knowledge of agriculture and the food processing sector
2050 Population Challenge
Feeding 9 billion people (increase food production by 70%)
Food security gap (half of the food grown in the developing world goes to waste
because of the lack of proper handling, processing , packaging and distribution
Energy and Resource conservation (increasing food production in a sustainable
manner with require gains in efficiencies throughout the food system)
Accelerating scientific and technological advanced will be necessary
to meet the challenge
THE FOOD SCIENCE DISCIPLINE
Up to the 1980s, most
For the past 30 years, the
model has been discipline
This model does not
promote a deep
specific food systems
A model centered around Food
Processing / Manufacturing
recognized by IFT.. .
Make us more relevant
to industry because
food processing is the
Greater potential for
FOOD SCIENCE RESEARCH
To meet the 2050 challenge, the development of technology in
agriculture and the food processing sectors need to accelerated.
This will only be possible through redoubling of multidisciplinary
research and a more holistic view of research by Food Scientists.
What are the hurdles to overcome?
Developing or redeveloping the food system culture
Attracting talent to food system research
Increase in R&D dollars in academia and the private sector
FOOD SCIENCE AND
What have we done?
Food processing dates a few years back, started with the beginning of
Drying: 12,000 BC in the middle east and Asia
Fermentation: 10,000 BC beer was born
During the 19th and 20th Century
Drying, canning, chemical conservation and fortification were the major
Nicolas Appert (1806) and Peter Durand (1810, tin can) invented Canning
Discovery of vitamins in the early 20th century and importance of
micronutrients such as iron, calcium and iodine.
Rickets and vitamin D deficiency
Goiter and iodine deficiency
RDAs were introduced in 1941and led to the introduction of fortified
Iodized salt was first introduced in 1924
FOOD SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Amazing progress was made in the 20th century in refrigeration
and freezing, acidification of foods, our understanding of water
activity and food safety, development of irradiation, extrusion,
modified and controlled atmosphere, food additives such as
nutritive sweetners, packaging
Development continues on emerging processes such as
microwave heating, ohmic heating , high-pressure processing,
pulsed electric fields
HOW DO WE CONTRIBUTE (AS FOOD
SCIENTISTS) TO FOOD SYSTEMS
Work in a team…does not suit everyone…academicians tend to
Having the right expertise on a research team is essential
Work on big research questions but manageable projects…(e.g.
NIFA CAPS are not a good example)
Communicate impact of the research
Food and Nutrition System
Food Microbiology &
HOW DO WE DO AS EDUCATORS?
Degrees in food science prepare students to be competent food
scientists. Food Science programs go through an approval
process with the Institute of Food Technologists.
However, the curriculum deals very little with food systems
Not enough time in 120hrs to become a competent food scientist
and be aware of food system complexities?
I think there are opportunities to improve
Food and Health
PROGRAM GOALS & OUTCOMES
Program Goal 1: Graduates can demonstrate and apply
knowledge of the core competencies in food chemistry and
Program Goal 2: Graduates understand and apply knowledge
pertaining to the microbiology of relevant microorganisms in food
Program Goal 3: Graduates are competent in both the principles
and application of food processing and engineering concepts.
Program Goal 4: Graduates are able to apply the principles of
Food Science to identify, define, and analyze technical problems
and develop solutions to these problems.
Program Goal 5: Graduates have basic skills essential for
employment (independent and team work, integrity and ethics,
Program Goal 6: Graduates are effective communicators.
IFT & FOOD AND NUTRITION SYSTEMS
IFT does not require broadening electives in production agriculture
(animal or plant)
IFT requires one course in nutrition which is probably not adequate to
understand the issues.
IFT does not require exposure to logistics, distribution or marketing
Program Goal 7: Graduates understand the complexities of the Food
and Nutrition Systems
Outcome 7.1: Understands production agriculture issues that are relevant to
careers in the food industry (e.g. production management practices important to
ensuring a safe food supply)
Outcome 7.2: Understands distribution and retail channels and logistical issues
associated with US and worldwide food distribution systems
Outcome 7.3: Demonstrates knowledge of retail and food service industries
Outcome 7.4: Understands factors influencing consumer attitudes and behavior
Outcome 7.5: Demonstrates knowledge of factors controlling health and wellness
in the developed and developing countries
Outcome 7.6: Knowledgeable about challenges facing worldwide food systems