2020 Congress Themes
Food security and sustainability are increasingly top of mind for food scientists and technologists. Add the critical aspect of ensuring food safety in our increasingly globally connected markets and you have the three key issues that will exercise our best minds in the 21st Century. Together, these three aspects – safety, security and sustainability – form the major themes for the 2020 World Congress.
Our aim is to construct a broad, international technical/scientific programme, showcasing innovations that will ensure a safe, secure and sustainable food supply in the coming years, highlighting work from researchers and industry leaders. Innovations in food science and technology are essential to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way.
Expressions of interest are invited for sessions that address these three underpinning themes which are discussed in more detail below. Although each session has four speakers, speaker names are not required at this stage as accepted session titles will be widely publicised and abstracts invited for each. In addition to sessions falling under the three themes, we also welcome suggestions for sessions addressing contemporary food science and technology issues.
Ensuring that the food we eat is not contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, toxins and chemicals has long been a core focus of the food industry. Science and research are essential for managing food safety risks and preventing new food safety issues arising.
Food safety is important for New Zealand as food exports make a major contribution to the economy; our ability to protect and increase our international trade in food products, as well as protect the health of New Zealanders, depends on our food safety system. The New Zealand Food Safety Science & Research Centre was set up to co-ordinate food safety research and provide a collective resource that will further enhance New Zealand’s reputation as a source of safe food.
However, it is not only microbial safety that concerns food manufacturers and consumers. Packaging is an indispensable component of the food manufacturing and food supply process, but there are scientific challenges in the safety assessment of food packaging materials. This has been prompted by rapidly advancing research to improve food packaging that continues to impact packaging technology, toxicology, exposure, risk assessment and sustainability. Recycling, currently seen as an important measure to manage packaging waste, may increase the levels of potentially hazardous chemicals in the packaging and -after migration – in the food. As well as packaging materials, there are other sources of contaminants such as pesticides and herbicides that can impact consumer health and well-being.
Other safety concerns that impact consumers are food fraud and allergens in foods, both important issues that also need to be addressed.
Food security involves ensuring that all people at all times have both physical and economic access to the basic food that they need. By 2050, a global population of 9.8 billion will demand 70% more food than is consumed today. Feeding this expanded population nutritiously and sustainably will require substantial improvements to the global food system, while providing economic opportunities in both rural and urban communities. Food systems are inefficient, leading to significant waste even as chronic hunger affects millions.
The current state of global food insecurity is considered one of the biggest challenges in the world. Rapid population growth, increasing urbanisation and an expanding global middle class will have profound impacts on food and nutrition security, while placing added pressure on the environment. There are significant inefficiencies in food systems with about one third of all the food produced in the world being lost or wasted post-harvest.
Most of the undernourished people in the world live in developing countries. Cultivation expansion can only be achieved at high social and environmental costs, and other options such as sustainable intensification or waste management may be more appropriate. Emerging technology innovations have the potential to drive rapid progress in the sustainability, inclusivity, efficiency and health impacts of food systems to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Reduced water usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and food waste; and reduced obesity and undernourishment of consumers are high priority areas. Food companies must adapt to shifting consumption patterns and play a greater role in promoting health and wellness.
Sustainability by definition is a slippery and contested concept with multiple meanings and realities. A sustainable food system is a collaborative network that integrates several components in order to enhance the environmental, economic and social well-being of a community and region. Older, narrower definitions of sustainability are being overthrown in favour of more all-encompassing approaches that challenge companies to be proactive about finding new opportunities to extend their environmental stewardship and CSR initiatives.
One of the primary concerns of food consumers is transparency, particularly when it comes to how products are manufactured and what is in them. In response, food companies are stepping up their sustainability efforts, collaborating with their suppliers, and fine-tuning their business models. Sustainability has evolved from an expected part of good corporate citizenship to a driver of business strategy and a key decision-making consideration for consumers.
There are numerous avenues available for promoting sustainability, and companies are exploring novel approaches to product development, including the use of recycled waste and by-products. The broader implications of sustainability are opening up new avenues for food and ingredient manufacturers looking to exert positive change while gaining the goodwill of consumers. Although climate change was once the leading driver for sustainability, other sustainability trends include a growing awareness of waste, water issues and concerns over animal welfare.
Dietary shifts have been identified as one of the most powerful ways to increase the sustainability of food systems, and studies addressing the complementary role of technological innovation and demand-side changes are usually associated with reducing meat consumption.
Dr Gordon Robertson, Chair, Scientific Programme Committee