Released: May 16, 2002
New Food Technologies Help Address Consumers’ Needs
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Food preferences in the United States have changed, said Karen Penner, a food safety specialist at Kansas State University.
"Today we have a new generation of food products that are less processed," Penner said. "People want food that is closer to the natural state."
For example, she said: "We buy lots of imported fresh produce today that wasn’t available 10 to 20 years ago. We go to the grocery market where we might buy prepared bagged lettuce and other pre-cut and washed vegetables. And, there is a substantial number of people across the country who consume raw oysters or salmon, and a variety of under-cooked products.
"We want convenience, and yet we want fresh."
Penner said past generations of people had a tradition of eating meat that is more well done.
"They knew they could kill harmful parasites in pork and also kill anything else that could make them sick by cooking meats very well done," she said.
By contrast, younger people today want food that is less well done, and are more likely to eat frozen food as opposed to canned food.
"And the food industry has had to figure out new technologies to provide fresh foods that are safe to eat," Penner said.
Products must stay fresh longer not only on the grocery shelf, but also in consumers’ homes. The food industry has responded with such new technologies as irradiation, steam pasteurization, active packaging, chemical washes and more.
Today’s technology push, though, is not completely new to the food industry. Past innovations have included canned meats and vegetables; frozen fruits and vegetables; and heat pasteurized milk.
"Today," Penner said, "we take those past innovations for granted."
K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.
Karen Penner is at 785-532-1672