Scientists predict food in the new millennium

December 21, 1999

What does Y2K have in store for food? Food scientists peering into their crystal balls see supermarket sections devoted to functional foods (products that may provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition), grubs as grub, and pill-popping to optimize nutrition.

"I envision grocery store shelves lined with functional foods that target people at risk for specific health problems," predicts Fergus Clydesdale, Ph.D., professor and head, Dept. of Food Science, University of Massachusetts. "These foods may be color coded to correspond with genetic dispositions for chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, or health risks, such as high cholesterol or blood pressure. People susceptible to such health problems could then shop for foods with the appropriate color code on them to reduce their risk."

This idea goes well with the current trend of consumers regarding food as medicine. According to HealthFocus (1998), one-third of all consumers regularly choose foods for specific medical purposes, such as honey for a sore throat or cranberry juice for urinary tract infections.

For protein content, perhaps food manufacturers will start using insects and earthworms as ingredients, suggests Manfred Kroger, Ph.D., professor emeritus, Dept. of Food Science, Pennsylvania State University. "Insects and worms are good sources of protein and widely available," he says. "Why not put them on pizza or add them to snack foods?"

People also may have the option of getting their daily nutrients from pills instead of food, Kroger adds. "For example, we may have vending machines that allow you to program in your health profile and then obtain a pill with the optimal nutrients that you need."

However, Kroger acknowledges that pills will not replace the enjoyment of eating, nor at the present time, compensate for beneficial substances in food not yet identified. "People will probably still want to indulge in their favorite foods, such as steak and chocolate, but nutrient-dense pills may offset unhealthy diets or complement healthy ones."
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To speak with a prophetic food scientist, contact Angela Dansby at 312-782-8424 X227 or by e-mail at aldansby@ift.org.

Founded in 1939, IFT is a non-profit scientific society of 28,000 members working in food science, technology and related professions in industry, academia, and government. As the society for food science and technology, IFT brings sound science to the public discussions of food issues.

Institute of Food Technologists

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