Philip E. Nelson, president of the Institute of Food Technologists in 2002 and food science professor at Purdue University, will be recognized today as the 2007 recipient of the World Food Prize in an announcement here at the U.S. Department of State.
Nelson has been selected for the world’s highest honor in food for his achievements in the development of bulk aseptic packaging and storage which allows highly perishable foods like fruits and vegetables to be distributed globally in a sterile environment without refrigeration and without significant loss of nutrients.
The announcement included Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, chairman of the World Food Prize selection committee, World Food Prize President Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, and was presided over by Daniel Sullivan, the acting undersecretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs.
“Dr. Nelson’s pioneering work has made it possible to produce ultra-large scale quantities of high quality food,” says Ambassador Quinn. “The food can be stored for long periods of time and transported anywhere in the world without losing nutritional value or taste.”
This has proven to be a critical advancement in times of food crisis, according to Quinn.
With the aid of aseptic food technology potable water and emergency food aid was distributed to survivors of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and to the U.S. victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as to other crisis situations worldwide.
Nelson’s innovative research led to the development of preserving and transporting perishable foods without refrigeration in carbon steel tanks ranging in size from delivery truck to ocean freighter. By coating tanks with epoxy resin and sterilizing valves and filters, food can be stored and removed without introducing contaminants. As a result, enormous volumes of food are safely stored and shipped around the globe for final processing, packaging and distribution.
“Bulk aseptic processing and packaging is recognized among the world’s greatest food innovations” during the past 70 years, according to Al Clausi, former IFT president and current member of the World Food Prize Council of Advisors that includes former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush and former Philippine president Corazon Aquino, among others.
“This modern advancement in food science and technology compares with Clarence Birdseye’s frozen foods, the microwave oven, and concentrated frozen juices” developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture research labs, says Clausi.
Nelson is the first food scientist and second IFT member to receive this highest honor.
In 1991, Nevin S. Scrimshaw was recognized for his lifetime achievements in identifying and fortifying local food sources to reduce diseases associated with malnutrition in developing nations around the world. Among his other many achievements, Scrimshaw also founded the Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1961.
Nelson has been involved in the storage and packaging of food since childhood. In his early years working on his family’s tomato farm and canning factory in Morristown, Ind., he earned the crown of “Tomato King” at the Indiana State Fair.
The 2007 World Food Prize and its $250,000 award will be formally presented to Nelson on October 18 during ceremonies at the Iowa State Capitol, part of the World Food Prize’s Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium. Further information about the World Food Prize and the Laureate Award Ceremony and Symposium can be found at http://www.worldfoodprize.org/.