Institute of Food Technologists

The Institute of Food Technologists or IFT is an international, non-profit professional organization for the advancement of food science and technology. It is the largest of food science organizations in the world, encompassing 22,000 members worldwide as of 2006. It is referred to as "THE Society of Food Science and Technology." Its current president is Robert B. Gravani of Cornell University. As food technology grew from the individual family farm to the factory level, including the slaughterhouse for meat and poultry processing, the cannery for canned foods, and bakeries for bread as examples, the need to have personnel trained for the food industries did also. Literature such as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle in 1906 about slaughterhouse operations would be a factor in the establishment of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later that year. The United States Department of Agriculture was also interested in food technology and research was also being done at agricultural colleges in the United States, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and the University of California, Berkeley. By 1935, two MIT professors, Samuel C. Prescott and Bernard E. Proctor decided that it was time to hold an international conference regarding this. A detailed proposal was presented to MIT President Karl Taylor Compton in 1936 was presented with $1500 of financial aid from MIT for a meeting to be held from June 30 to July 2, 1937 with Compton asking how many people would be in attendance at this meeting. Prescott replied with "fifty or sixty people." 500 people actually attended the event.

This meeting proved so successful that in early 1938 that a second conference would be held in 1939. Initially led by George J. Hucker of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (part of Cornell University) in Geneva, New York, a small group meeting was held on August 5, 1938 on forming an organization with an expanded group meeting in New York City on January 16, 1939 to further discuss this. The second conference was held at MIT June 29 to July 1, 1939 with Proctor as conference chair. 600 people attended this event. At the final session, the chairman of the session Fred C. Blanck of the United States Department of Agriculture, proposed that an organization be established as the Institute of Food Technologists. This was approved unanimously. Its first officers were Prescott as President, Roy C. Newton of Swift & Company in Chicago, Illinois as Vice President, and Hucker as Secretary-Treasurer. By 1949, IFT had 3,000 members.


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