Agricultural Biotechnology

How has food science changed over the years?
Answered by Dr. Mehmood Khan
  • Dr. Mehmood Khan

    Dr. Mehmood Khan

  1. Dr. Mehmood Khan Chief Executive Officer, Global Nutrition Group and Chief Scientific Officer, PepsiCo


    Let's look back at the last 200 years at what's been going on in the whole area of the food industry and food science. If I think about it from an industry perspective, food was produced locally, by farmers, and often consumed by the same person who grew it.

    Go back 200 to 250 years and that was the norm. As we started to see urbanization, people living remotely from where the food was actually grown, that necessitated an industry, and that was people who could take the food, the ingredients of our food -- nobody eats raw potatoes or raw grains -- take those commodities, take those ingredients and make them into food that's compatible with our diet, and then make it, distribute it, and have it available.

    That was the dawn of the food industry. That was a phase of taking kitchen-level cooking into a commercial exercise. Then there was the second phase, and a lot of that actually started, interestingly, in the first half of the 20th century. Let me give you an interesting fact, to give you a perspective to this. During World War II, one of the commonest reasons why an American potential recruit to the U.S. military for the war wasn't recruited was because they were underweight and malnourished -- in America.

    Now this is not a long time ago. I'm talking about within the last 60, 70 years. This was considered, at that time, a strategic threat to our security, and the U.S. government pushed to learn how to process food at greater scale that was clean and safe and make it consistently available to every American. Prior to that, the level of trust of whether the food was safe or not and clean or not wasn't there.

    The food industry has done a remarkable thing. We take it for granted today, but that is where I look at as the second phase in this industry. Wherever you are in the developed world, and now increasingly in the developing world, you can pick up a package, a box, a bottle, and almost always assume it's safe -- so much so that if it isn't, it makes news. Back in the 1800s, it would never have made the news. It was common. That was phase two.

    I think we're about to enter another phase, and that is as the knowledge of nutrition, as the knowledge of the biology of our bodies has started to mature and has accelerated in the last 50 years, this is now a great opportunity to bring that knowledge, marry it with the capabilities and knowledge of the food industry, and I think we'll see -- we're right on the cusp of seeing this

    More answers from Dr. Mehmood Khan »

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