Preparing for a processed food future

Meeting consumer demands for safe and healthy processed food is the key to feeding the world’s burgeoning populations, according to leading food scientists forecasting the future at a Massey University symposium this month.
Massey became New Zealand’s first university to offer a Bachelor of Food Technology in 1964, and will recognise the historic impact of those five decades of education and innovation on June 30, when alumni, staff, lecturers and industry leaders gather on the Manawat? campus to hear about the latest thinking and trends.
Massey University Professor Richard Archer will be predicting a future where 3D printers are commonplace in kitchens and more ready-to-eat factory-prepared processed meals are shipped around the world. “There will be billions more people on the planet in a generation or two, and they will largely be living in cities so their food will need to be preserved and transported to them – it will be processed.”
“People are getting fat and realizing many processed foods are built up from very refined flours and sugars and starches. Learning to convert food raw materials into the food products people want, without refining and heavy processing is very difficult. But that is exactly the mission of the next generation of food technologists currently in our universities,” Professor Archer says.
“Only by large scale industrial activity can we feed the burgeoning city populations with food they can afford.  We now want to do it without additives, preservatives, carrying the full variability of the raw crop, with minimal heat and loss of nutrient.”
Dr Janet Collins, president of the 18,000-member Institute of Food Technologists in the United States, will be providing a global perspective on how food science and technology innovation can help feed an estimated world population of nine billion by 2050. “We face an uncertain future when it comes to addressing food safety, food security, climate change, limited natural resources, diet-related diseases, growth of the global middle class and expanding consumer expectations. What we accept as scientists is not always seen as acceptable by consumers.”
The Washington DC-based senior DuPont manager is an expert in the labelling, nutrition and safety of foods derived from modern biotechnology, with 35 years of experience in advocacy and policy development. She believes misperceptions and mistrust of food processing systems are major barriers to the adoption of new technologies. “Consumers are increasingly wary of the food system - they lack trust in large companies. They prefer locally grown and organic (natural foods) and they do not like the association of ‘technology’ with their food. It is personal, cultural, as well as health and family-related.”    
“Consumers need more assurance about the safety and predictability of new food technologies. We need transparency in those systems and we know that food tracing will help provide a better understanding of the food supply,” Dr Collins adds.