When you attend a national IFT meeting, you find that there is much more than just the expo with all the tasty samples. There is a whole educational selection that can help you with everything from personal development to learning about new technologies. I selected five of the most beneficial sessions I attended at IFT15 to tell you about below.
1. The session “The Future of Food Preservatives: Emerging Natural and Potent Antimicrobials” discussed the future of emerging antimicrobials and the emerging regulatory issues that surround the use of new potential ingredients. Of the 45 or so components that have been discovered, many have hurdles that limit their ability to be effective, such as solubility, too narrow an effective pH range, instability, or the capability to bind to other ingredients, rendering them ineffective.
One issue in this category is that only one product – nisin – has received GRAS status, or approval for use as a food additive in the U.S. The challenge for manufacturing is finding ingredients that maintain neutral sensory properties and are efficacious in food; provide a clean label on the product ingredient list, have GRAS status, and have been screened for potential competitive patents; and have a low cost-in-use impact to the finished product.
2. In the session “Adding Value to Food and Nutrition Through Probiotics: Present Status and Future Perspective,” the history of probiotics, as well as the present commercial probiotic strains, was discussed. Also, a presentation on how intestinal microbiota may impact obesity continued the session. A survey of studies was presented on how certain specific strains of probiotics could act as anti-obesity agents. One potential for future development in this category is the use of biomarkers to create a personalized therapy for patients in combatting not only obesity but other health disorders as well.
3. Keynote Speaker Mike Walsh asked four questions to challenge our current status quo, and make us think differently about the future of our industry:
- How do we engage the next generation of consumers?
- What happens when we can program produce like software?
- What impact will emerging food technologies have on sustainability?
- What impact will big data have on the big food industry?
Mike’s insightful style led us through paths to think about how to re-think convention and move into areas where we can directly link to customers, manage our product supply in real time, and seek out disruptive technologies that may impact our industry. He offered next steps, such as “Put some kids in a room and ask them to describe the future of food to you”, create a future impact timeline, look at real-time data to improve decision-making processes, and to find ways to directly interact with your consumers to gain more insight. He challenged us to not let the future surprise us, because “the future is now”.
4. “Insect-Based Foods: Views from Different Perspectives” was extremely popular, and the session’s attendees spilled out of the conference room. We learned about how the consumption of insects fits into diets in the Tropics region of the planet, and that certain insects are sought out by certain species based on nutritional deficits of crude fat, crude protein, or other micronutrients. A presentation on how chefs can engage school children with insect-based proteins showed us that kids may be the ones to influence the rest of the population into accepting this different protein source. Next we learned how insects can be a more sustainable source of protein to use land, food and energy more efficiently than other animals. Also covered were the current efforts by Dr. Aaron Dossey and his company All Things Bugs LLC to test and validate product safety, functionality and shelf life of products using insect protein. One key takeaway from the regulatory and allergy research portion of this session was that little research has been done to test the allergenicity of insect based foods, but a voluntary allergen statement should be included in the packaging, saying that the product was formulated with insect protein and may not be safe for persons allergic to shellfish.
5. The IFT15 CEO Panel took on industry issues and discussed transparency, maintaining a fact-based communication with consumers while listening to consumer concerns, CEO perceptions on how technology will impact the manufacture of food, and trying to overcome the general level of consumer distrust that the food industry encounters. Eric Larson of Linden Capital Partners mentioned that the consumer distrust experienced in the food industry actually extends everywhere, and to regain confidence, companies must communicate in ways that are more comfortable and easy to understand. One interesting insight was how to provide consumers with the additional information they may want for a product without cluttering up the packaging. James Borel of DuPont Pioneer suggested use of QR codes on a package to link to product and ingredient transparency information.
Consider coming to IFT16 next year in Chicago on July 16-19, 2016 at McCormick Place.
Did you attend any scientific sessions that you feel were particularly impactful to you or your job? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
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