[Video] Processing tech can boost food, but can transparency close the trust gap?

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ift Food processing Fermentation preservation

A recent white paper published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) on the sustainable production of nutritious foods through processing technology highlights how various processing techniques can improve food and nutrition security. Yet the challenge is overcoming negative consumer perception around processed foods, ideally through “radical transparency,” from all stakeholders, Anna Rosales, senior director, government affairs and nutrition, IFT, explained to FoodNavigator-USA.

According to IFT, food processing can be defined “as the use of methods and techniques involving equipment, energy and tools to transform agricultural products, such as grains, meats, vegetables, fruits, and milk into food ingredients or products.

Rosales emphasizes more emerging technologies like fermentation and precision fermentation as sustainable solutions that address the nutritious needs of a growing population.

“Fermentation is this beautiful kind of ancient knowledge that we’ve been able to modernize to potentially improve the nutritional bioavailability of foods. There’s several different mechanisms that fermentation can do this through whether that’s from altering the food matrix to enhance the macro nutrient digestibility and micronutrient’s availability, or … increase protein digestibility … by degrading complex proteins and breaking it down into smaller peptides and amino acids … [and] help improve starch digestibility by activating the starch hydrolyzing enzymes,” she explained.

Precision fermentation, she added, is a modernized solution from the “ancient knowledge that we have,” to help develop plant-based proteins and address sustainability challenges, while providing more protein supply that aligns with population demands.

The paper also discussed the role of preservation techniques like cooling, dehydration and heating, as sustainable methods to strengthen food safety and nutrition security.

“The primary goal of preservation is first and foremost food safety, maintaining the quantity and quality of the food from production to consumption without compromising safety, the taste or the nutrition,” Rosales explained.

She added, “We really cover a full range of these technologies and opportunities within the paper itself, highlighting both the existing as well as emerging technologies in this space, as well as looking at the developing nation perspectives.”

From a consumer perspective, misunderstanding around the term “processed” can certainly hinder growth around improving food availability in the future.

While fermentation is more readily understood through common food products like cheese, yogurt and beer, Rosales said that “radical transparency” is critical to improve understanding around food processing.

“We need to be really clear, we need to not just use terms that are wholly scientifically understood, but that are understandable to a consumer. So, translating some of these technologies into terms that … my mom could understand who doesn’t have a scientific background, it’s really essential to help people understand and to have confidence in what they’re eating.”

A copy of IFT’s white paper, Sustainable Production of Nutritious Foods Through Processing Technology, can be downloaded here​.

                                                                                                                                          

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