CHICAGO — The science and policy team at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) forecasted four food science trends for 2024: farm-to-fork strategies, food as medicine, improving food safety and advancing artificial intelligence (AI).

The farm-to-fork trend recognizes that each component of the food ecosystem is interconnected. Proposed policies, commitments and investments will seek to improve food and nutrition security and enhance sustainability. Examples include the COP28, the World Food Forum, the US farm bill scheduled for release in 2024 and the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.

“Investing in food science and technology will be key in meeting these goals,” the IFT’s science and policy team said. “We expect to see a continued focus on food loss and waste reduction as evidenced by the USDA, FDA and EPA’s recently released draft strategy. Additionally, outcomes from the USDA’s Climate Smart Agriculture investments will begin showing visible progress.”

Food as medicine is uniting medical practitioners, advocates, manufacturers, retailers, farmers and government. Efforts will be made to redefine medical professional nutrition education and establish health insurance connections.

Outbreaks, contaminants and the presence of manufactured chemicals known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are visible food safety concerns. California also plans to ban certain food additives beginning in 2027. The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposal for a unified human foods program recognizes the evolving global food supply requires changes that will allow the FDA to respond more quickly and efficiently.

AI, which processes vast amounts of data, will bring opportunities in 2024. It also will require new evaluations of ethics and privacy. The need for new frameworks will require collaborations across policy makers, technology platforms and end users.