Food science and technology is a relatively young profession. Although single scientific disciplines, like chemistry and biology, had been applied to food from the mid-19th century onwards, it was not until the 1950s that 'food science and technology' became a subject in its own right. This led to the establishment of the National College of Food Technology in 1952 and the development of food science degree courses in four UK universities and one polytechnic.
By the early 1960s, food science and food technology graduates were beginning to appear on the scene but they were ineligible to be admitted to any existing "single discipline" professional institution. Equally, practitioners who had been trained in single disciplines had realised that to practise effectively in the food field they needed further knowledge. Instead of thinking of themselves as chemists, physicists, microbiologists, chemical engineers, etc. who happened to be working in food, they were increasingly describing themselves as food scientists or food technologists.
At this time, leaders in the field realised that a new profession was in the making, with professional needs that could not be met either by existing scientific professional bodies or by any of the various learned and specialist societies with food interests. Foremost among these was the late Professor Denis Mounfield, the then Principal of the National College of Food Technology. He, and other like-minded individuals, were conscious of the need for an organisation that could cater for the new food science and technology graduates as well as those whose professional qualifications were through the more traditional route. IFST was formed in 1964 to cater for this new breed of scientists and work began rapidly on creating and developing the new organisation. By 1968, the Institute became an incorporated body, with a Memorandum and Articles of Association and Bye-Laws.
During the 1970s, IFST further developed its range of professional qualifications and activities and, in 1980, became a full member of the Council of Science and Technology Institutes (the predecessor to the Science Council). Since then the profession and IFST have gone from strength to strength with IFST becoming the leading qualifying body for food professionals in Europe embracing an international membership.
The following decade saw the flowering of the Institute's public benefit role, in particular, the initiative to form the European Federation of Food Science & Technology (EFFoST) and the further development of IFST's well-respected scientific publications, notably its series of technical guides and journals, such as the Good Manufacturing Practice Guide, Food Science & Technology (known then as Food Science and Technology Today) and the International Journal of Food Science & Technology (IJFST).
The 1990s saw the establishment of several direct collaborative relationships with sister institutes around the world and on the home front two new professional specialists' groups were established (the Professional Food Microbiology Group and Professional Food Sensory Group). During this time IFST also published the first of its 'Information Statements' , derived from members' specialist expertise, providing objective information on food topics for the public. IFST was also one of the first professional bodies to take advantage of the internet launching its first website in 1995.
Into the 21st century
IFST continues to actively support the continuing professional development (CPD) of members and other food professionals, including the production in 2001 of a CPD CD Rom and a corporate accreditation scheme for Marks and Spencer's food technologists. In collaboration with the Food & Drink Federation, a CPD Guidance Document was issued jointly in 2006. In April 2008, a pilot scheme was launched to accredit the CPD of the Food Standards Agency's non-specialist scientists.
In January 2007, a new scheme to accredit Food Auditors and Mentors was launched to help assure the calibre of auditing and mentoring services to the food industry. Those on the register are eligible to register on the Safe & Local Supplier Assurance Scheme (SALSA) launched in March 2007 by the food industry. IFST manages the administration of the scheme.
Historically, the IFST membership activities were run through a not-for-profit, limited liability company, while the IFST Trust Fund, a separate registered charity, ran most of our educational activities. In November 2007 the Charity Commission granted charitable status to the IFST company, the Trust Fund ceased activities in June 2008 and the two bodies were subsequently amalgamated as a single charitable company with shared objectives . As a single entity the IFST has a clearer identity, be able to project a more distinct profile and sense of purpose, demonstrating a commitment to maintaining good professional standards for the public benefit.
In 2008, IFST launched a sponsored Fellowship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). The first Fellowship was awarded to Nancy Acosta, a PhD student at the University of Birmingham. She took up the Fellowship in September 2008 and prepared briefing material for parliamentarians on Food Hygiene Standards .
In 2014, IFST launched two new registers: The Register of Food Safety Professionals and the Register of Professional Sensory Scientists, and the new Food Start programme.