content tagged as Sustainability

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Technology is changing at a revolutionary pace. Think about how the commoditization of the internet changed the retail and banking sectors. A similar trend is being observed in the world of food traceability. It’s not just that we are collecting more data about our global food system but we are getting smarter about how we leverage technology to get smarter about utilizing the data we collect. Data collected for traceability is helping anticipate issues in food quality and respond more effectively to issues in food safety. IFT’s Global Food Traceability Center has studied and evaluated several novel traceability technologies that show potential, from the use of whole genome sequencing to trace foodborne outbreak pathogens and contamination sources to the use of synthetic DNAs sprayed on packaging to prevent temperature abuse. Lessons learned from other industries can help accelerate the rate of adoption of traceability best practices such as RX360 in the pharmaceutical sector or electronic patient records in the healthcare sector. One exciting technology that is promising the potential to bring our food safety systems into the 21st century is blockchain based on lessons learned from the financial sector.

Blockchain is a transformative technology that could finally enable the traceability and the transparency that the industry has been working toward. This holistic view of information could enable better execution in the supply chain itself to drive improved food safety, better sustainability, reduction of waste and other key benefits. Blockchain isn't a silver bullet, but its unique characteristics as a trusted, shared system of record allow us to solve both the underlying technology problem and the fundamental social problem that have hampered previous efforts. With blockchain we can improve how we digitize and distribute all of the information on the food ecosystem. In addition, we can provide the trust that allows entities to actually participate. By enabling the participation of the entire ecosystem with the creation of a trusted record of the food system, the food ecosystem will be transparent and traceable, and in a way that supports the business interests.

The food system has been changing since the dawn of time, but never more rapidly or dramatically as it has the potential to do so today. Whether we live in Shenzhen, Santiago, Sheffield, or Chicago, we can choose to buy local or enjoy the best products from the best producers anywhere in the world without regard for the season. We go online and get whatever we want to be delivered directly to our door or local store. While this modern food system has resulted in more choice, affordability, and convenience, in some instances, it also has resulted in consumers being far removed from where food comes from and how it’s been produced. As a result, there is a need for even greater collaboration regarding food traceability and transparency solution. Blockchain, as new and emerging technologies, have the potential to enable a new era of end-to-end transparency in the global food system that will further promote responsible actions and behaviors.
More than 2 billion people live below the poverty line and experience malnutrition or food insecurity. Usually, global development programs are not necessarily associated with food science and technology but more so with the improvement of agricultural practices, standard setting across nations through Codex activities, or in rapidly responding to humanitarian crises. However, food science and technology is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goal that aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. This general lack of awareness of the junction between food science and sustainable development results in lack of innovation targeted to foods or food ingredients for humanitarian purposes, their safety or stability; lack of food safety management systems focused on informal markets or small manufacturers in developing economies; and little attention is given to capacity development throughout value chain addition in the poorest sectors of the population. Furthermore, there are no clear venues for food technology professionals to contribute with their expertise and collaborate with multilateral organizations in projects either remotely or locally. For example, WFP feeds 80 million people annually with only a staff of 20 food technologists contributing to the development, distribution and management of the safety and quality of food value chains in some of the planet’s most remote and insecure regions.

The session aims at providing clarity on how interested food technologists could participate either remotely or locally in the various programs managed by UN food agencies. This is a first collective step between these organizations and IFT to find avenues to identify food technology capabilities and resources that can contribute to the strengthening of capacities of local communities that these organizations assist.
Sugar (sucrose), produced from cane or beet, is the gold standard for sweeteners and will continue to be so. Both cane and beet are processed to recover the naturally occurring sucrose, with no molecular transformation necessary. The physical and chemical properties of sucrose are well established, including those related to its role in baking and as an ingredient. The nutritional role of sucrose, and other caloric sweeteners, remains a controversial issue. The diversity of sugar products, especially from cane – refined, raw, organic, turbinado, panella, etc. – is not fully understood by sugar users and will be summarized.

However, the sugar industry is much more diverse and interesting than appreciated by most food technologists. The impact of the industry on migration (forced), politics, economics, international trade and literature is very wide and will be described in some detail. Sugar cane overshadows beet in this respect, though there are some interesting historical and literary aspects of the latter. Cane production and processing provides the economic and social backbone in many parts of the world, though this is changing and the industry modernizes and factories expand in capacity.

Other underappreciated aspects of the industry relate to its size and geographic diversity. World production of crystalline sucrose exceeds 150 million tons, arguably the highest for a crystalline organic chemical. Currently the industry is a mix of small, traditional processing operations and very large, automated factories processing more than 30,000 tons of cane per day, requiring a seasonal harvest of approximately 50,000 hectares. Energy and environmental issues become very significant at this scale, especially with the potential for cogeneration. Data on this aspect of the industry will be the third part of the presentation.
The demand for plant protein from different sources is growing, not only due to the growing interest to reduce meat consumption in the western world, but also to face the challenge of feeding 9 billion people in 2050. Next to the leading plant protein source worldwide – soybean – microalgae are one repeatedly proposed alternative. Microalgae offer great potential through their high productivity per area and time compared with other crops and they do not compete for the limited arable land available. Moreover, they can contain up to 70% protein per dry weight, unsaturated fatty acids, and other high value components of interest to the food, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries. This symposium focuses on the entire value chain of this emerging protein source with spotlights on the cultivation, the downstream processing, and already commercialized products and concludes with a critical view from a sustainability perspective.

Arthrospira spp. are one of two microalgae species that are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by FDA and serve as red line in the symposium. The blue-green cyanobacterium is commonly cultivated in large open “race-way-ponds” between the 30° northern and 30° southern latitudes. It is an effective, low cost, and robust way to produce large amounts of dried biomass, well known as Spirulina, rich in proteins and unsaturated fatty acids. However, cultivation in open ponds has certain limitations, especially with regard to the total biomass concentration per volume, which is affecting the efficiency of all subsequent downstream processing. In open pond systems the important impact factor is light: its intensity and distribution per volume element cannot be precisely controlled. Light stress induces an increased production of phycocyanin, a blue protein, which is the coloring principle of natural blue and green food colors. The effect of stress factors on metabolic pathways to trigger responses on cellular level are emerging research topics in the field with direct implications on economic feasibility. Technologically improved cultivation systems address these issues, including production and processing in urban environments.

Besides on the focus on Spirulina cultivation, its optimization and downstream processing, the symposium will address the life cycle assessment of Spirulina cultivation in comparison to soybean farming. As the leading plant protein source, soybean production and processing is highly optimized and serves as a benchmark, although major drawbacks like farmland usage for animal feed production and GMO soy plants are causing consumer concerns. The sustainability assessment is needed to identify critical points in recent Spirulina production and processing which have to be investigated and optimized to make Spirulina a sustainable green protein source.

Experts from academia and industry will present on how (i) a state-of the art industrial scale Spirulina cultivation is realized; (ii) in what way photo-bioreactors can contribute to the Spirulina cultivation in the future; (iii) explore the potentials of natural colors based on Spirulina as raw material, and the usage of process side streams; and (iv) in combination with a critical LCA to depict the potential of algae protein to close the protein gap in the future.
Food processing is underutilized as a means to achieve food security in developing countries. The reasons are many, but one solution is to arm local food processors with relevant skills and resources so countries can be more self-sufficient in feeding their populations. Good practices in domestic food production would stabilize and enhance the food supply, preserve food year round, reduce dependency on imports, add value to commodities, increase profits, satisfy consumer demand, minimize food waste, utilize local resources, and create jobs.

Although emerging nations could benefit greatly from the sharing and implementation of food science principles, real-world execution is not straightforward. This panel discussion seeks to highlight the types of constraints that confront food technologists who provide support for micro, small, and medium food enterprises. The challenges include lack of education and training, poor practices, intermittent or unreliable power sources, inadequate or burdensome government regulations, labor issues, corruption, natural disasters, poor crops, limited access to raw materials, cultural issues, and improperly structured aid projects.

The session will feature case studies from food professionals with field experience in such situations. They can tell many stories, but each expert will focus on specific food processing disciplines.

Donna Rosa will serve as moderator and presenter. She has both a technical and business background and will show how of market analysis and strategy development helped develop and enhance competitiveness of small food enterprises. Rick Stier has extensive expertise in many areas, but will address the challenges of food safety, sanitation, and compliance for this discussion. Ken Marsh, a longtime packaging scientist, will cover practical solutions for selection and application of food packaging. Mark Washburn is an expert in value chains, value addition, food manufacturing, and compliance. He will speak on manufacturing and operational food challenges in developing countries.

Each panelist will present examples from their field work, outcomes, and lessons learned. Tentative questions for discussion include: (1) In your opinion, what is the single most pressing challenge that must be addressed in the area of food security?; (2) How can the food industry (including IFT) take action to realize the potential of food processing in developing countries?; (3) How can young food scientists get involved in feeding the hungry of the world?; (4) What opportunities are there for food technology as a pivoting strategy to promote the development of new businesses through value addition to food?; and (5) How can other disciplines such as agricultural engineering, strategic management, social science, and logistics be leveraged to maximize successful outcomes in small food business creation?
Part II of the session will discuss the complexities associated with removal of a broad range of food residues from surfaces using a combination of chemical and flow characteristics.
“Cellular agriculture,” the ability to produce agricultural products, such as meat, eggs, and milk through the use of biotechnology and cell culture and without the use of animals per se, is being touted as the next big breakthrough for ensuring a sustainable, safe, and ethical food supply. Meats produced via cellular agriculture have been given various monikers such as “cultured meats,” “animal-free meats,” “clean meats,” and “lab-grown meats,” to name a few. As this field of research emerges, it is conceivable that these cultured products could become commercially available in the near future. What are some of the regulatory challenges that will be faced by companies wanting to bring these products to market?

The market introduction of products developed via cellular agriculture poses a myriad of questions from a regulatory perspective. For example, what level of regulatory oversight will be needed? How will it be ensured that these products are safe? Will these products have to be nutritionally equivalent to their conventionally-obtained counterparts? How will they be labelled? When genetically modified (GM) foods were first developed and brought to market, existing regulations had to be adapted and new regulations had to be promulgated and, in some jurisdictions, GM foods continue to be contentious. Similar developments are likely to be needed for the commercialization of products obtained via cellular agriculture.

This symposium will begin with an overview of cellular agriculture: what it is, and the methods and technologies used to develop cultured animal products. The stakeholders involved in advancing the research and development of cultured animal products will be shared, in addition to the challenges associated with the progress of research in this area. Whether the existing regulatory framework in the United States for bringing food products to market can be adapted to support the commercialization of cultured animal products will be discussed, in addition to foreseen regulatory challenges.
This session will explore the evidence underlying recommendations for restricting red meat intake. In particular, evidence regarding current vs. recommended intakes to achieve a healthy dietary pattern, red meat’s impact on health outcomes such as heart health and cancer, and if red meat is compatible with a sustainable diet will be discussed. Three dynamic speakers will approach the question of red meat intake from multiple vantage points. Specifically, the health implications of including red meats in a healthy diet will be discussed. Secondly, the role of red meats and cancer will be explained based on current evidence. Finally, the challenges of limiting livestock production as a means of improving environmental outcomes while maintaining healthful diets for a growing population will be discussed.
The concept of in-place cleaning (CIP) has been commercialized for over 70 years, but many of the basic mechanisms of this approach to cleaning food contact surfaces remain unexplored. This approach to cleaning has had significant impacts on the time and labor for food manufacturing operations, and has ensured uniformity and consistency in cleaning practices. Although CIP processes are very effective, it is currently impossible to ensure that the outcomes are optimum. The overall objective of this symposium is to review the current status of CIP, and explore the research challenges to be addressed. Much of the reviewed interest in the science and engineering of CIP is associated with the mechanisms involved in creating the residues on food-contact surfaces, as well as the mechanisms associated with removal of the residues. Included in the renewed focus is the need to accomplish cleaning with reduced amounts of water, a more conservative use of cleaning agents, and an overall reduction in energy requirements. In multiuse product lines, product and operational losses due to cleaning and changeover are significant and represent an environmental impact of the manufacturing operation. Ultimately, the cleaning process must continue to meet an increasing array of challenges to ensure that food contact surfaces are free of residues that could support creation of biofilms and lead to product contamination.