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IFST Lecture 2019

The IFST Lecture is one of the highlights of the year for the food science profession, providing critical thinking on topical issues and invaluable networking opportunities. This year’s guest speaker was Professor Michael Gibney, Emeritus Professor of Food and Health, University College Dublin.

On the evening of 2 July 2019 Professor Gibney discussed with over 170 invited guests his views on ‘ultra-processed foods’ and the issues raised for policy makers. Hosted at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, the Lecture was also livestreamed to three venues around the UK.

IFST Eastern Branch coupled their live stream at the Quadram Institute, Norwich, with a talk by Dr Jennifer Ahn-Jarvis, Research Scientist, Quadram Institute, on ‘Food design in clinical trials: the impact of food formulation on absorption and metabolism of bioactive compounds’. Members of the IFST Scotland Branch were able to participate in the Lecture at SSERC, Dunfermline, where David Thomson, CEO of Food & Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland, also presented on ‘Processing and policy – the challenges’. The satellite meeting in Northern Ireland was hosted at Moy Park, Craigavon. At all venues a convivial reception with nibbles and drinks was enjoyed.

Professor Gibney began by emphasising that his opinions in this matter are his own and his work in this field is 100% free of any industry links. In a wide-ranging and rigorous review of the scientific literature, Professor Gibney questioned some prevalent notions around ultra-processed foods. For example, he could find no clear biological basis to believe that either processing or additives are linked to chronic disease. Moreover, he advised that advocating avoidance of ultra-processed foods may create problems for policy makers and consumers. In a key study, highly industrially processed foods contributed significantly to the nutrient intakes of middle-aged European populations. They contributed between 61% (Spain) and 78-79% (the Netherlands and Germany) of mean energy intakes. Only two nutrients, β-carotene (34–46%) and vitamin C (28-36%), had a contribution from highly processed foods below 50% in Nordic countries, in Germany, the Netherlands and the United United Kingdom[1]. These and many more incisive insights were delivered replete with evidence from well-regarded studies and with Professor Gibney’s characteristic wit.

In the lively Q&A that followed, Professor Gibney noted that more work on nutrient intake as a function of specific genotypes may yield clearer evidence for policy making.

The 2019 annual Lecture was supported by the Government Chemist, the National Measurement Laboratory (NML), the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) and Leatherhead Food Research.

Michael Walker





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