New this year at the IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo is the Beacon Lecturer series. Two sessions will be led by two prestigious individuals who use their extensive experience and knowledge to dispense provocative opinions and cutting-edge strategies in the fields of science and technology. The two presenters for the Beacon Lecture Series are Patrick Wall and Regina M. Benjamin.
Patrick Wall is world-renowned for his contributions to consumer protection and food safety.
He is an associate professor at the University College Dublin’s School of Public Health and Population Sciences. In addition to his professorial duties, Dr. Wall is the leader of a significant research project on the best approaches to risk and benefit communication within the European Union. Also, he is chairman of the Advisory Body for the Delivery of Official Controls at the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency and is trained as both a veterinary surgeon and a medical doctor. Dr. Wall’s research covers foodborne illnesses and other diseases related to consumer behavior or lifestyle choices.
In response to the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad-cow disease), Dr. Wall was instrumental in the establishment of a science-based consumer protection agency, the Irish Food Safety Authority. The agency’s purpose was to strengthen regulators’ ability to monitor the food chain as well as to restore consumer confidence in the safety of the food supply. He later served as chairman of the management board of the European Food Safety Authority. Also, Dr. Wall was one of the non-Chinese nationals appointed to the committee overseeing food safety at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Regina M. Benjamin is the Surgeon General of the United States. In this capacity she provides science-based wisdom on the best ways to improve the health of U.S. citizens and directs 6,500 uniformed health officers serving in global locations, working to accomplish the same.
Prior to accepting her current post, Dr. Benjamin was an associate dean at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and a chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States. She founded the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in 1990 to provide much-needed medical services to an underserved rural fishing village and was the first physician under the age of 40 to be elected to the board of trustees of the American Medical Association. In 2002 she was appointed president of the State of Alabama Medical Association, making her the first black female president of a state medical society in the United States.
Dr. Benjamin has frequently referred to the preventable illnesses that have plagued her family, including the death of her father from complications due to diabetes and high blood pressure. “I cannot change my family’s past, but I can be a voice to improve our nation’s health for the future,” she has said. Dr. Benjamin has thus placed great emphasis on the importance of healthy dietary options as the solution to health problems linked to poor diets and overconsumption.
Both speakers will offer different perspectives on food and health, perhaps contradicting the opinions and philosophies of food scientists and technologists. Opposing viewpoints are part of what makes these lectures alluring and provocative.
Tell us: Do you plan to attend the Beacon Lecture series? Do views that differ from those of your own cause you to question the usefulness of food science and technology or do you firmly believe that food science and technology have a place at each family’s dinner table?