Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Looking into the Future of Foods and Health

Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Looking into the Future of Foods and Health

Article excerpt

THE NEED: HEALTH VARIATION IN THE POPULATION

The food industry has a unifying goal to deliver to the marketplace safe, convenient, affordable and delicious food products that provide consumers the means to assemble the diets that maintain and improve their health. Scientific research has built considerable basic knowledge that has been instrumental in achieving this goal. Examples of prior success abound, from the scientific discoveries of the essential nutrients to the engineering of unit operations that ensure the reliable and controlled lethality of potential food borne pathogens in food processing lines. This knowledge ensured that the population consumed foods that provided all of the essential nutrients within a normal diet and was protected from the broad range of food borne microbial pathogens in the environment. The overall success of the industrial translation of this science is illustrated by the observation that most of the Western population is now unaware of, that is, has never seen the phenotypes of diseases caused by classic deficiency diseases, iodine - goitre, vitamin C - scurvy, vitamin A - blindness, and rarely experiences food borne illness from the consumption of industrialised foods.

Consistent and sustained efforts by various health organisations at the local, federal and international levels, working with the food industry and regulatory agencies are addressing the diseases that are caused by overt, frank deficiencies of essential nutrients in the developing world (Chakravarty and Sinha 2002). Even in the developed world there remain instances whereby unusual lifestyles lead to dietary patterns that produce inadequacies of particular nutrients (Smotkin-Tangorra et al 2007; Aung et al 2006). Nonetheless, these are rare and usually recognised quickly for what they are, conspicuously unusual and inappropriate food choices. Again, by the nature of essential nutrients such deficiencies even if caused by unusual diets can be resolved simply by fortifying with appropriate vitamins and minerals (Cannell et al 2008).

Over the past several decades, as food choices and the food marketplace continued to change in response to convenience, affordability, and of course delight, food intakes began to reflect more and more these food choices based purely on preference (Moskowitz et al 2005). Consumers reacted very positively to the wide variety of choices and the diversity of apparent choices increased. Food products and the food marketplace in general have experienced a prolonged expansion of diversity. Consumers genuinely have the luxury of choice of different food products and they embrace this luxury in choosing the foods that they prefer. Dietary intakes needless to say, have become increasingly dominated by the composition of those foods that appeal to convenience, affordability and taste and flavour preference (Sebastian et al 2008).

Through the past three decades, although nutrient deficiencies have not increased, dietrelated diseases have (Alberti 2001). These new health problems though related to diet are not due to deficiencies but to imbalances in overall macronutrient contents relative to the lifestyles of those consuming them. Disturbingly, imbalanced diets have apparently become widespread across the world leading to diseases including atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis (Lopez et al 2006). Furthermore, several diseases such as cancer, inflammatory disorders, neurodegenerative diseases and autoimmunities that while not believed to be explicitly caused by diet are either accelerated or delayed depending on dietary choices implying that diet could significantly improve the global burden of these problems (Locke et al 2005).

HUMAN HEALTH STATUS

Food and nutrition research thus have a new challenge for the 21st century that parallels in many ways the challenges at the beginning of the 20th century. The devastating and widespread diseases that were epidemic in the 19th century and were caused by nutrient deficiencies were resolved during the 20th century by a massive global scientific and industrial effort extending across the entire agricultural enterprise (Backstrand 2002). …

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