The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) has played a central role in bringing together the brightest minds in food science to solve the industry’s most complex issues. The group has made it their mission to provide a networking platform for scientists around the world to share ideas and educate the media. The IFT has also poured a substantial amount of resources into scholarships and fundraisers to ensure food science remains an attractive career for intelligent minds of the future. These are some of the responsibilities that have been keeping John Ruff busy. He was appointed IFT’s president in September of 2012 after a 36 career with Kraft. Great American Packaging recently spoke with Ruff about the state of the food industry and what to expect in the future.
What are the biggest issues currently facing the food industry?
“There’s actually a whole series of challenges that we’re dealing with at the moment. We have a difference between the developing world and the developed world. In the developed world, it can be said that we have an abundance of food and don’t necessarily eat the right food. This has led to a growing rate of food-based diseases including obesity.”
“In the past, the developing countries have traditionally had an issue with not having enough food. The irony in that now is you have very few countries that have those problems. You can pick a few in Africa where overweight and obesity is very limited and that’s a reality. But one of the statistics I’ve often offered in presentations is asking the audience which country has the most overweight people in the world. They usually first say the US, but that is wrong. Then they will say Scotland, but that is also wrong. At that point I tell them to think in terms of the number of people. Usually they are thinking in terms of percentages. At that point somebody will usually figure it out and say China, which is correct. In fact it was ten years ago when China passed the point where there were more overweight people than underweight people. That is happening now with virtually every country.”
“That doesn’t mean everyone is getting fed though. In the US, we do have a growing part of our population that doesn’t get enough to eat. You could argue that it’s financial as opposed to the other issues, but the fact is we have an internal hunger issue too.”
“The thing about it is that the world used to be separated into countries that have one problem or the other. Now we’re all dealing with the same problem; we’re dealing with malnutrition in parts of the population and a growing rate of obesity in other parts of the population.”
Why is misconception a problem with food?
“In today’s technological world, the information you sometimes run across is amazing. Part of it is because people aren’t connected to their food like they were 50, 70 years ago where the percentage of the population that was involved with some part of farming or farm-related industry was enormous. Now there is something like less than five percent is involved in any aspect. People just aren’t connected to their food like they used to be.”
How has the IFT helped influence the uniformity of food education standards?
“What IFT focuses on, it’s actually one of our biggest things we put emphasis on, is the quantity and quality of food around the country as well as the world. IFT has, for a long time, focused a lot of effort behind raising the standards of food science and finding ways to encourage the best and brightest to join this industry.”
“There’s a whole series of videos we’ve done called “A Day in the Life of a Food Scientist.” The first one goes through what life is like as a NASA food scientist. It’s really interesting because the whole team is looking into things like how to feed a community of people on Mars. The videos represent a lot of the challenging and exciting things about food technology.”
“More specifically to your question about food education standards, the IFT has a program where we approve undergraduate food science degrees from major universities. Over the decades, it’s mostly been United States universities, but we’ve been expanding to other parts of the world. We’ve noticed it’s sometimes a much larger subject in universities outside of the US. We’ve also done other things like fund scholarships for those going into the industry as well fundraiser events like our annual fun run. Last year we had around five hundred people running in Las Vegas who participated and raised around $100,000 for scholarships. We have these scholarships, again, is to encourage people to get into food science. These types of things are important in order to fulfill the food challenges of tomorrow.”
- December 2013 (2)
- November 2013 (3)
- October 2013 (11)
- September 2013 (5)
- August 2013 (1)
- July 2013 (8)
- May 2013 (3)
- April 2013 (3)
- March 2013 (6)
- February 2013 (7)
- January 2013 (6)
- December 2012 (5)
- November 2012 (9)
- October 2012 (8)
- September 2012 (12)
- August 2012 (17)
- July 2012 (5)
- June 2012 (10)
- May 2012 (2)
- October 2011 (1)