IUFoST History

By Joseph H. Hulse, Past President, IUFoST

The feasibility of establishing an international organization of food scientists and technologists dedicated to the nutritional needs of the people of the world was informally explored during the First International Congress of Food Science and Technology held in London in 1962. The President of the Congress was Lord Rank, a flour miller among other things, and in his presidential message he said: “If the potentialities of … food science and technology are to … culminate in the peoples of the world receiving a sufficiency of food that is … appealing and nutritionally adequate, then there must be international collaboration.” From this Congress emerged an International Committee of Food Science and Technology. The work of this committee culminated in the formal inauguration of The International Union of Food Science and Technology during the Third International Congress of Food Science and Technology convened in 1970 in Washington, DC, USA.

NATO’s involvement in the conception of IUFoST

In 1960, several British scientific societies and the UK Government organised a conference in London in recognition of the Centenary of the 1860 Food and Drugs Act (UK). It was also the 150th anniversary of Appert’s publication on the preservation of foods in sealed containers.

In the week prior to the Food and Drugs conference, Professor John Hawthorn convened a symposium on Recent Advances in Food Science at the Glasgow Royal College of Science and Technology, which later metamorphosed into Strathclyde University. [The proceedings, edited by Professor Hawthorn and a colleague J. Muil Leitch, were published in 1962 by Butterworths]. The Glasgow symposium, to which food scientists from many nations were invited, was financed by a substantial grant from the Office of the Science Adviser to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO. During the 1950s and 1960s NATO evinced a significant interest in food technology. The food and nutrition research laboratory in Toronto, of which I was director, carried out an extensive study for NATO on the bulk storage of food grains examining alternative methods conducive to stockpiling at dispersed sites.

One evening following dinner during the Glasgow symposium, Professors Hawthorn and EC Bate-Smith invited a group to meet to discuss the concept of an international food science society. The discussion was splendidly stimulated by Professor Hawthorn’s supply of malt whiskey from a Hebridean distillery. The group included Emil Mrak and George Stewart from Davis, California, a fellow Canadian Bill Geddes, Dean of Agricultural Biochemistry at the University of Minnesota, Professor H D Kay from the dairy research institute at Reading, Tim Anson, an American employed with the Lever Organisation. Sadly I am the last survivor of that Glasgow group.

The notion of international scientific societies was not unique. ICSU, its predecessor and the supporting family of national academies and scientific unions had existed since 1919. The Glasgow group was of the opinion, however, that the time was ripe to create an international food science society, since several national food science and technology institutes were in existence. Our British hosts undertook to pursue the idea and the result was the food science congress convened in London in 1962, the first of the series of which China will be the host to the 14th.

The subsequent history of IUFoST is amply recorded in the archives, but perhaps not everyone is aware of NATO’s early intervention.