CHICAGO – Although the world’s food system already provides food for nearly 7 billion people daily, a new study from the Institute of Food Technologists states more advances are needed to ensure an adequate food supply – which must nearly double during the next several decades to serve the growing world population.

Published in the September 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, the first-of-its-kind scientific review takes a historical look at the food system, the many challenges ahead, and the crucial role of food science and technology in meeting the needs of the growing population.?

Other highlights of the study include:

  • Drying, canning, chemical preservation, refrigeration (including chilling and freezing) and nutrient conservation and fortification were the significant advances of the 19th and 20th centuries and permitted population growth in more-developed countries. Alternative preservation technologies, such as high-pressure processing, have been developed during the past 15 to 20 years to meet consumers’ growing demands for safe, fresh-like and highly nutritious foods.
  • Processed foods and beverages can have positive nutrient benefits beyond those of the raw or home-prepared product, according to the study. Some processed products are often a better value for the consumer than the fresh or raw product, according to the study.
  • Commercial food manufacturing operations are more efficient in the conversion of raw materials into consumer products than home processing and preparation. Through life-cycle assessments of the environmental impacts of the food system, waste-management practices are being refined and improved further.
  • Biotechnology has potential to improve food quality and nutritive value, and lower raw-materials costs in an environmentally sustainable way.
  • Nanotechnology holds tremendous promise for many applications. Nanotechnology could enhance food safety, for example, through better bacterial detection and control methods.
  • A growing body of evidence shows food and diet are important factors in chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. The solutions to the diet-and-disease challenge (e.g., overweight and obesity) are complex, "and require a multi-pronged strategy from both the public and private sectors," according to the study. "Policy makers must carefully consider promoting an environment where better and more nutritious foods are readily available, while respecting consumer choice," the study states.
  • Individuals must make more healthful choices pertaining to diet and exercise, and the food industry should use "innovative pipelines and resources to produce foods and beverages that are more nutrient-rich rather than energy dense to assist the consumer in the quest for a healthful diet."
  • Responsible food marketing is also encouraged.

"With science and technology solutions available to address specific issues throughout the food system, our ability to feed a growing population in a sustainable way, while safeguarding both human and planet health, looks not only possible, but also promising. We must, however, remain steadfast and rational about our approach, to help both humanity and nature," according to the study.