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Getting Serious About Sustainability

“In a world of climate change, freak storms are the new normal,” posits a headline for an article on climate change that appears in the June 6, 2011, issue of Newsweek. Whether or not you believe that carbon emissions are contributing to global warming and the resulting weather issues that have made headlines in recent months, it’s clear that the topic of protecting our planet merits some serious consideration.

As Newsweek science writer Sharon Begley points out in the article, “Even those who deny the existence of global climate change are having trouble dismissing the evidence of the last year. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,000 tornadoes have ripped across the heartland, killing more than 500 people and inflicting $9 billion in damage.”

In that context, sessions in the sustainability track of the 2011 IFT Annual Meeting’s Scientific Program certainly seem more relevant than ever. This track will showcase efforts of food companies, academia, and government to create a more sustainable food supply. The science to support efforts in food sufficiency; sustainable product development and packaging; ingredient sourcing and food production; waste management; and the business case for environmental sustainability will be addressed. Here’s a preview of what is planned.

  • Session 008 from 7:15 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. on Sunday, June 12, is titled “Fundamentals of Sustainability for the Food Industry.” It will provide early risers with insights into the basic concepts of sustainability as they relate to the food industry.
  • Session 124 from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Monday, June 13, will also focus on some of the basic elements of this complex topic. Its title—“What Does Sustainability Mean to the Food Industry? Part 1: Defining Sustainability”—provides a concise description of the session content. Those weighing in on the topic will represent some powerful industry players—Mars, Wal-mart, and the International Food Information Council.
  •  Session 142 from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Monday, June 13, will continue the discussion begun earlier that morning. Titled “What Does Sustainability Mean to the Food Industry? Part 2: Industry Case Studies,” the session will feature presenters from more high-profile companies—Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.
  • Session 026 on Sunday, June 12, from 10:30 a.m. to noon is titled “Greening of Food Processing and Packaging Technologies” and will feature speakers from industry, academia, and government. It will explore issues including climate science, energy management in food processing, and enhancing brand value via a sustainability program.
  • Session 079 from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, will bring issues of health, wellness, and nutrition into the sustainability discussion. The session is titled “Sustainable Food Systems: Nutrition and the Environment.”
  • Session 186, “Greening of the Restaurant,” from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, June 13, will analyze the restaurant industry’s path to environmental responsibility.
  • In Session 230 from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Tuesday, June 14, representatives from companies that earned 2010 Beverage Innovation Awards will discuss their respective paths to sustainability. The session is titled “Sustainability: How Beverage Innovation Award Winners Did It.”
  • In Session 259, “How Can Food Scientists Contribute to the Reduction of Food Losses to Support Food Security Efforts Worldwide?,” the roster of speakers will include World Food Prize winner Phil Nelson. The session will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, June 14.
  • Session 278, “Advances in Food Processing and Sustainability,” which takes place from 1:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14, will be built around the goal of sharing new perspectives on sustainable food processing issues, including a special focus on sustainability assessment in a food plant.

As even a quick glance at this list of sessions makes clear, the conversation about sustainability can cover a lot of ground. What aspects of sustainability do you find most relevant and compelling? What sustainability issues and agendas are on the front burner at your company?

Consumer Preferences for ‘Fresh’ Drive High-Pressure Processing

Ifantis Turkey with HPP technologyConsumer preferences for “fresh” and preservative-free products and retailers’ desires for longer shelf are driving the double-digit global growth of food volumes undergoing high-pressure processing (HPP). From its beginnings in chilled guacamole, HPP has expanded into multiple food & beverage categories, including ready-to-eat and raw meats, wet salads, juices, cheese products, and dips.

If you want to get up to speed on the state-of-the-science on high pressure processing and its application, the 2011 IFT Annual Meeting & Foods Expo® in New Orleans is a great place to start. At IFT11, several scientific sessions will explore high-pressure processing and other emerging technologies. On Tuesday afternoon, session 269 will explore novel applications of high pressure for conversion and preservation of food compounds. The presenters will address process efficiency as a function of pressure, temperature, time, and product properties and the impact on scalability, safety, and quality. Topics to be covered include low-moisture foods (e.g., powders), enzyme conversion, biochemical reactions in foods, and proteins and food structure.

Session 249 on Tuesday morning will highlight process uniformity during high pressure pasteurization and sterilization. Participants will learn the impact of physical-thermal properties of food material in controlling thermal non-uniformity during pressure treatment as well as gain an understanding of the use of mathematical models in identification of the least-treated zone within a pressure vessel and process optimization.

In addition to the symposia, several posters sessions will reveal the latest research on HPP and various food constituents. This research runs the gamut from HPP effects on antioxidant characteristics of persimmon fruit; high pressure processing of wet-pack fruits; combined pressure-temperature effects on carotenoid retention and bioavailability in tomato juice; and high pressure processing on rheology of egg and egg components to structural changes of Streptococcus thermophilus peptidases subjected to HPP; the effect of pulsed UV light, high hydrostatic pressure, and nonthermal plasma on the potency of major wheat allergens; and potential use of high hydrostatic pressure combined with cold as a quarantine treatment for the Mexican fruit fly.

Is HPP in your future?