A Spotlight On: IFST Food Processing Group

 - Review of 2021

This special interest group (SIG) brings together members who work in different sectors within the food system, united by their common interest in processing. The SIG features members from both industry and academy, from technical, operation, quality and safety, R&D, and NPD functions. We believe the food industry needs more process-minded individuals, so we are aiming to use this SIG as a platform to integrate industrialists' practical knowledge, skills and experiences with academics' expertise in research and teaching, in order to inspire the next generation of food professionals.

As a group, we want to look at what is "between the bench and the shelf", and focus on every aspect of food processing. The scope of the covers all areas related to processing, including but not limited to: manufacturing operations, continuous improvement, process design, and instrumentation. We also discuss topics including preservation, robotic and artificial intelligence, staff training, knowledge transfer, and continuity of talent supply.

One of our first events in April 2021 was an overview and insight into the Food Processing Special Interest Group and a reflection on the skills needed to make a good food process practitioner. A collaborative robot was also showcased as an example of some of the future skills required in the sector.  You can catch up with the video below!

In our SIG’s meetings, we capitalise on the diverse background of our members and utilise their professional network to invite speakers from sectors inside and outside food industry to deliver mini-TED talks. The topics includes futuristic topics such as cyber security and digital twin, as well as practical topics such as food safety design in processing and hygienic design with the European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group. The wide range of topics are aiming to encourage conversion and inspire forward thinking. We are also bringing some of the speakers to bigger stages to engage with wider audiences. One of the first will be Lucia Capogna, cyber security expert from the railway sector, who will deliver a talk at the IFST Spring Conference this May.

We are also planning a few other projects. One of them is an investigation of Current practice of NPD in UK food industry and it’s alignment to HE/FE teaching practices. We are aiming to review the current state of NPD practices in the UK food industry (including methodology, protocols, and access to information/technical support), and to examine its alignment with teaching practices within further education (FE) and higher education (HE)in order to identify gaps and inform best practices to both education and industry sectors. If this sounds interesting to you, please get in touch!

In November, very sadly, we lost our beloved chair Stephen Tomlinson, who passed away suddenly. Some of us knew Stephen for many years, and some only met him in the last year, yet we will all remember Stephen with gratitude and we immensely miss his kindness and contribution to the SIG.

To summarise, we have enjoyed many successes in our first year. We had successfully established the group with clear identity and mission, had many inspiring mini-TED talks, and started some very interesting work that we believe will benefit the food sector greatly. If you want to get involved with our SIG, get in touch and join us. We still have some positions open in our steering committee. Email us at info@ifst.org.

IFST Members Week Showcase: Food Processing Special Interest Group