Cactus IFT Presents: Food Evolution Film Screening

Cactus IFT is hosting a film screening of the new Documentary FOOD EVOLUTION. Come join your peers at FilmBar, and enjoy an engaging and educational film, which will be followed by a group discussion and networking. Round up your colleagues, family, and friends and bring them with you to what is sure to be a exciting night out.                                                                 
Delicious tamales and popcorn will be available, and your first drink is ON US!

Click here to RSVP!

From Academy Award® nominated director Scott Hamilton Kennedy (THE GARDEN, FAME HIGH, OT: OUR TOWN), and narrated by esteemed science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson, FOOD EVOLUTION is set amidst a brutally polarized debate marked by fear, distrust, and confustion: the controversy surrounding GMOs and food.

Traveling from Hawaiian papaya groves to banana farms in Uganda to the cornfields of Iowa, FOOD EVOLUTION wrestles with the emotions and the evidence driving on the most heated arguments of our time. 


Farm to Fork: U of A Students Share New Food Safety Technologies

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin

When Jesse Leal, International Auditor and Trainer Food Defense, AIB International, was asked what he would suggest the No. 1 action be taken to improve the safety of our food supply, he replied, “Education and training.” As Jesse says, “A dog can be trained, but food professionals need to be educated to understand why measures are taken to safeguard our food supply.” This understanding is a critical part of any food defense program.

Along with education, Jesse emphasized the importance of prevention and applauded University of Arizona Food Microbiology students for the technologies they are developing to give food processors the tools to this end. Specifically, students of Sadhana Ravishankar, Ph.D., highlighted the use of essential oils and extracts that can be used as bactericidal washes on fresh greens. These students have also developed organic films that can be incorporated in packaging and/or added to bagged greens to inhibit bacterial growth.

Dr. Ravishankar discussed the findings of her research; for example, that a 3 percent addition of onion powder, turmeric or oregano to ground beef dramatically reduces the formation of heterocyclic amines, HCAs (a class of carcinogenic compounds).

This first Cactus Section IFT regional meeting “in recent memory” in Tucson was an excellent showcase for the technologies that are currently under research and development at U of A. Applause to our U of A students and professors who did a great job last Wednesday! They include:

• Libin Zhu- lab manager and Research Specialist
• Dr. Govindaraj Dev Kumar- Postdoctoral Research Associate
• Kamini Joshi- graduate student (third place poster)
• Monique Torres- graduate student
• Gustavo Pinoargote- graduate student
• Joshua Albertson- graduate student (first place poster)
• Aishwarya Rao- graduate student (second place poster)
• Davyn Louis- undergraduate student
• Stacy Suarez- undergraduate student
• Dr. Sadhana Ravishankar- Associate Professor

Bear Down U of A! Same time next year!

The Cactus IFT Food Safety Event: From Farm to Fork

The Cactus IFT Food Safety Event: From Farm to Fork



The Cactus IFT is having its next meeting at the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, home of the Wildcats. The theme of this event is Food Safety: Farm to Fork. A lab tour and demonstrations of various food safety projects (including produce, meat and aquaculture safety) in Dr. Sadhana Ravishankar’s lab will be conducted. The latest research in food and environmental microbiology will be presented by students through a poster competition.


Quality Control, Quality Assurance, Microbiologists, Ingredient Suppliers, Spice Enthusiasts, Organic Produce Growers, Conventional Produce Growers,  Produce Industry Professionals, Meat industry Professionals, Aquaculture Industry Professionals, Food Testing Laboratories, Lab Equipment Manufacturers, Food Retail/Transport/Processors, Restaurant and Small Business Owners, UA Students and Alumni, ASU Students and Alumni, First Time Tucson Visitors


School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences
University of Arizona
1117 E. Lowell Street Rooms 212 and 214
Tucson, AZ 85721-0090

Opposite the Sixth Street Garage

Sign up now.




4 Promises to IFT Members

Contributor: Tedley Pihl, Cactus Section IFT President

At the 75th annual National IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) meeting in Chicago this last July, IFT President-Elect Dr. Colin Dennis spoke on the Vision, Mission and Strategic Plan of the Institute.   The mission he stated is “To advance the science of food and its application across the global food system”.  Four Strategic Priorities, also known as IFT Promises to its Members, were delineated to achieve this mission.  These four promises are to Develop, Network, Innovate and Advocate.  The Cactus Section of IFT plans to incorporate these promises throughout our activities in the 2015-2016 IFT year.

The promise of Develop is to “Advance and Promote Careers in the Science of Food”.  IFT wishes to support its members and their unique needs throughout their career life cycle.

The IFT Student Association, IFTSA, is an international group of over 2,700 students.  Benefits of being a part of the IFTSA are for example a sense of community, opportunities for scholarships and competitions (College Bowl and Mars New Product Competition), help in finding jobs, and mentorships.  The Cactus Section meeting on October 28th will be hosted by the University of Arizona, College of Ag and Life Sciences Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology in Tucson.  The focus of the meeting will be “Raising the Bar, from the Farmer’s Gate to Consumer’s Plate”.  We will learn about food safety research at the U of A.  A poster session, and tour of the labs will be followed by a presentation by AIB International.

The CFS (Certified Food Scientist) program is the only recognized global certification for food science professionals. Currently, there are eight CFS participants who are Cactus members but we are working to double this number in 2016.  Information on CFS test preparation will be provided on our website

IFT affords safe opportunities to acquire leadership skills through Division and Section and Board leadership.  Cactus IFT is always looking for contributors who wish to expand their leadership skills!  Send us a note @ to learn more about how to expand your public speaking and organizational acumen.

The Network promise strives to offer members a sense of community. New to Arizona?  Trying to penetrate the Arizona food industry market?  Reach out to Cactus and find a sense of place.  September 24th the Cactus Section will be having its third annual “Opportunity Meeting” in Tempe.  This is a fun and free ice-breaker for the upcoming year to learn about what IFT can do for you and your career.  Come and be prepared to make new contacts!  If you can’t make this one, there will be six more meetings throughout the year with networking as a priority at each one.

As scientists, or those involved in the business of science, Innovation is a must.  It’s critical to stay on top of the changing climate of the food industry.  In January, Cactus Section will be meeting in Phoenix to hear from IRI about new product trends in the foods arena.  The focus of the meeting in March (date TBD) in Phoenix will be on the nutraceutical business with two presentations from experts in this industry.

Save the date for April 5, 2016 as the Cactus Section annual Supplier’s Night takes place at the El Zaribah Shrine Auditorium in Phoenix.  Last year there were 100 vendors in attendance sharing information on cutting edge ingredients and resources for Food Science professionals. This free event serves to provide opportunities to build innovation in to your business.

The fourth promise of IFT is to act as an Advocate: “Address Issues and Influence Outcomes”IFT is an “objective voice” in the science of food.  Communicating the facts on controversial issues (for example GMO) can be eased with the use of Food Science Ambassadors @  The National IFT website with tabs such as the Future Food 2050 and the Global Food Traceability Center is rich with support in this area.

National IFT is focused on the four Strategic Priorities to advance food science worldwide.  Your Cactus Section is dedicated to bringing these promises to the local level.  Please join us for our kick-off meeting on Thursday 9/24/2015 5:30 pm at The Watershed in Tempe, AZ and learn more about what how these promises can work for you.

Cactus Section IFT Gives Back to the Community

IFT ST Marys

In addition to being an organization that fosters business relationships and learning opportunities, Cactus Section IFT is an asset to the community. Recently, members of the Section gave back by attending the “Rock n’ Box” volunteer night at the St. Mary’s Food Bank Del Webb Distribution Center.

Before getting to work, members enjoyed a tasty dinner provided by the St. Mary’s CK (Community Kitchen) Catering group–a community resource that provides life skills and food service training for those without employment.

With full bellies, members created an assembly line and began packing emergency food boxes, which included canned goods, toiletries, and other nonperishable items. The team worked so efficiently that the assigned quota–18 pallets of food box–was competed in just a couple hours!

The good deeds of the Section didn’t stop there. President Holly Long also presented a $500 check to St. Mary’s on behalf of Cactus Section IFT. This amount provides 3500 meals to the community.

Thank you to all the members who volunteered their time to make this event a complete success!

– Tedley Pihl, Cactus Section IFT President Elect

A Tomato, My Kingdom for a Tomato


I suspect that I have never gone a day without a tomato of some kind. Life would not be life, as I know it, without tomatoes. If flavor is king, in fact, then I’d venture to say that the king of all that is food must be, that biological marvel of a red fruit that is used like a vegetable, that reminder of summers past, that sphere of sweetness, salt, and savory, that bloody gush of lycopene-colored goodness, that which tastes just as good when warm off the vine as it does in a vegetable salad, which could not be complete without it, that essential component of so many soups, salsas and sauces, the one and only tomato.

Clearly it’s hard for one who’s studied food to not fall in love with the tomato. Had I not studied food science, had I not joined Cactus Section IFT, had I not had my curiosity piqued by trainings on flavor science, and preservation and processing of foods, I could have not ever truly appreciated the taste of a tomato. The reason is its versatility across a wide variety of foods. It’s equally hard to not adore the tomato as a nutritionist. Whenever more tomatoes are around, more people receive their recommended daily servings of fruits, as well as vegetables. They get their vitamin C, they get their potassium, they get lycopene, and a range of other health-promising carotenoids.

Food processing also has nothing on the tomato. No pounding, mashing, pureeing, blending, or heating appears to do it harm. In fact, these all only appear to intensify its flavor, condensing the content of tomato aroma volatiles; simultaneously, they break apart natural binding components to release carotenoids making them more easily absorbed. And because those carotenoids are fat-soluble, any fusion with fats or oils as part of a prepared product only improves a tomato’s nutrition still further.

According to Wayne Bidlack, a professor in the Human Nutrition and Food Science Department at the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, CA, the tomato serves as a useful example of how a fresh food can be nutritious, even more nutritious, through food processing. Likewise, processing improves the release and absorption of beta-carotene from carrots, and removes phytate along with bran from grains that improves bioavailability of minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

Too often taken for granted are the cases when food processing has actually improved our diets. We, as food scientists and technologists, might do well to remind others of these examples and that, despite a few setbacks and contrary to popular opinion, the food industry has achieved great things.
The food industry only sells products that people want to buy and if it doesn’t sell, it creates something else, Bidlack reminds. Consumer preference does have the power to change food patterns, starting at home but influencing restaurant foods and food processing methods. The low-fat, low-carb, and gluten-free crazes of years past are all products of this ever-changing consumer environment. Food companies are quite conscious of the nutrition they sell, and, for the most part, the quality of our food supply has improved dramatically over the years.

For example, the food industry can be credited for improving the way fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested and transported to market—over days and weeks, some stored in cold rooms to extend its freshness. The processing of foods, Bidlack explains, also increased their shelf life extending outside of their seasonal production. This enabled their distribution over greater distances, decreasing spoilage and lowering prices that allowed lower income populations to access them.

We can also thank the advent of food preservation and processing for giving us tomato flavor anytime and anywhere in a variety of foods for our nutrition and enjoyment. That’s all good news for me given as much as I love tomatoes fresh, in vegetable salads, as tomato sauce on pasta and in pizza, in tomato soup or gazpacho, and as tomato salsa in burritos or with chips.
All of these foods keep my tomato tooth satisfied, along with my sweet, salt, and savory teeth, and as long as portions are controlled can be part of a healthy, balanced diet.

– David Despain, M.Sc., Cactus Section IFT Member at Large

Member Spotlight: Madonna Kash

Madonna Kash, Cactus Section IFT ACF Liaison

Madonna Kash, Cactus Section IFT ACF Liaison

The success of an organization depends on the dedication of its members. Cactus Section IFT has benefited greatly from Madonna Kash’s commitment and leadership. Her experience and knowledge from being an active member of the food science and culinary fields makes her insight invaluable to the Section. Here are some questions we asked her:

How long have you been a member of IFT?

I have been professional member of IFT for three years. 

How did you find out about IFT?

I was introduced to IFT by Lynn Abarr-Boubelik.

Why do you stay involved in IFT?

I enjoy learning about all aspects of the food service industry and working with liked minded individuals. I also enjoy the opportunities to help others and share knowledge.  

What do you do professionally?

Food service marketing, training, and professional development is my best answer for that, yet I’m shaking that up in 2015 by adding event planning back into my portfolio. I have taken over the sales and marketing of a 50 year old entertainment company, which includes catering.  I am also a proctor for the National Restaurant Association for ServSafe.  

How has IFT benefited your career?

The IFT added creditably to my portfolio and affords me opportunities to help others see there’s more to food service beyond a commercial kitchen.  

If you had to choose, what has been your favorite IFT event? Why?

The meeting with John Ruff, Immediate Past President of IFT, would have to be my favorite. I really enjoyed learning about industry trends, functional roles of food science, and what is developing today to better tomorrow.  

Do you enjoy any hobbies? If so, what?

Learning.  I love learning about food, food service, and sustainability. I also love connecting people with information for community development.   

What would you eat for your last meal?

I would eat any vegetarian or vegan meal made by Chef Bernard Guillas while dinning at the Marine Room. The meal would include: DIY; roasted mixed beets with olive oil and rosemary; Brussels sprouts with lemon butter, toasted almonds, and parmesan cheese; and roasted fingerling potatoes with white pearl onions. My beverage of choice would be a nice red wine such as a shiraz with the meal. For dessert, I’d have Leonidas Pralines with a Nutty Irishman cordial.  

Give Networking A Chance

Embrace the power of networking.

Embrace the power of networking.

To some, the thought of entering a room filled with strangers all with an eager intent to shake hands and exchange business cards can be daunting. The intimidating atmosphere can make you feel uneasy, unworthy, and unknowledgeable.

For these reasons, many people avoid the opportunity to network with professionals in their fields. Donna Cook is a published author who has expressed her hesitation to engage in networking in a recent article on her blog titled, “Why Networking is Not the Dirty Word I Thought it Was.” (Visit Donna Cook’s blog at or read her book, Gift of the Phoenix.)

She describes her preconceived notion of what a networking event would entail: “I envisioned a bunch of well-dressed folks whipping out their business cards with a suave smile. I imagined a flow of conversation that persuaded everyone listening [to] ‘Do business with ME.’ It seemed exactly the sort of slick, conniving environment in which I would be doomed to fail.”

Although reluctant, she decided to attend an event for the Idaho Writer’s Guild—an organization that would help support her latest journalism endeavor. With flashbacks to her “I’m-the-new-kid-in-school-and-don’t-know-where-to-sit-in-the-cafeteria” days, she bee-lined to an open seat and sunk into her chair.

Slowly, she opened herself up to those sitting around her and became pleasantly surprised at the commonalities she shared with them. As Cook put it, they all “spoke the same language.”  She was intrigued by their personal stories and inspired by their accomplishments. In fact, she was so moved by the people she met, she decided to join the club and has been a member ever since.

Cook professes the professional benefits of networking, but believes the personal friendships are what keep her coming back for more. “…I love the group. I love the people in it. I love being a part of it,” she concludes in her article.

Similar to Cook’s realization, Cactus Section IFT offers a unique opportunity to meet people who have similar interests in food science. One of the purposes of the section is to provide an opportunity to network regarding professional goals as well as to build lasting relationships outside of the section. At Cactus Section IFT, it’s more than networking; it’s about connecting.

– Gillean Barkyoumb, MS, RD, Cactus Section IFT member


Member Spotlight: Holly Long


Holly Long

This year would not have been successful without the hard work and dedication of the Cactus Section IFT Chair, Holly Long. Holly has spent hours scheduling events and organizing meetings.

Here are some questions we asked her:

When did you join IFT?

I first joined IFT as a student at the University of Arizona in the late 1980s. I returned to Arizona 6 years ago and I have been actively involved in the Cactus Section IFT for 4 years. I came to an open board meeting just to see what was going on and left with the job of secretary. That pulled me right in and I have found it very rewarding to be involved.

Can you tell us about your role as the Cactus Section IFT Chair?

Being Chair has been a challenge for me and I still have much to learn! At the same time, I have truly benefited from the training offered by IFT and have been able to sharpen my leadership skills. One of the best things for me has been developing friendships. I have also enjoyed working with volunteers and feeling such a great sense of appreciation for their help in seeing things through. As Chair, I have enjoyed seeing events come together, getting to know more of the members, and working on building my own skill sets. I am grateful for the opportunity!

What do you do professionally?

I have been involved in the nutritional supplement industry for over 20 years. I started out as a new graduate with a Master’s in Food Science from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. At that time, the nutritional supplement industry was not seen as a valid industry by the scientific community in general. Being involved in IFT helped me stay in touch with the science community. Over time more and more scientists became involved in the nutritional supplement industry and now there are many at any given event. It has been a wonderful change for our industry. Six years ago, I shifted focus in my career and am now involved in the business side of the industry managing a web fulfillment group. Being involved with IFT helps me keep in touch with the science that I love and meet other great professionals.

Why do you stay involved in IFT?

Among other reasons mentioned, one of my main reasons for staying involved is a love of science and learning. My favorite events are those where we learn together from great presenters and/or industry tours.

If you had to choose, what has been your favorite IFT event? Why?

One of my favorite IFT events in the last few years was a presentation on food safety and recall processes. It was unrelated to my current position, but the speaker knew the material well and taught and entertained us at the same time. A good teacher can always engage an audience!

Do you enjoy any hobbies? If so, what?

My husband and I enjoy working together on self sufficiency activities that could be loosely grouped under the idea of an urban farm. I enjoy having fruit trees, gardening, and cooking with my sun oven. The empowerment I felt when I cooked my first meal in the sun oven is hard to describe.

What would you eat for your last meal?

I love many kinds of food and my favorites change often. I have a recipe called “Tomoatoey Chickpeas” that comes to mind at this moment. It’s garbanzo beans flavored with Indian spices over rice. Pot stickers sounds good today too. And then a rich decadent dessert, perhaps.

Busting Myths About the Food Industry

John Ruff, immediate past president of IFT

John Ruff, immediate past president of IFT

The food industry, processing, GMOs, artificial ingredients, globalization, oh my!

It’s hard to blame consumers for believing in myths about food. They are blinded with all the choices vying for attention at the supermarket and schizophrenic news headlines that muddy the water about what’s healthy and what’s not.

It’s the age of the “empowered, global consumer,” said John Ruff, immediate past president of IFT, speaking to the Cactus IFT Section on Feb. 4 in Tempe, Ariz. The Internet, social media, and quick communication at our fingertips gives the average consumer the ability to be more informed than ever before.

But there’s also a lot of misinformation that’s accessed often openly attacking food science and technology due to a general lack of understanding, he explained.

Myth #1: Food processing is new

The No. 1 myth is that food processing is a relatively new occurrence, Ruff said. “Some people might say that it’s only 50 years old. Some people say it’s 100 years old. Wrong answer. Food processing is at least a half a million years old.”

About half a million years ago humans first discovered the use of fire for cooking, Ruff says. That marks the birth of food processing and food science. That first use of fire must’ve been as foreign as any other type of food processing that came later.

“How it happened, who knows?” Ruff said. “Maybe some animal got too close and fell into the fire or maybe an ancestor killed an animal and threw it in the fire. But that particular ancestor picked the leg of whatever it was out and suddenly discovered that that meat was now tastier, easier to digest, more nutritious, and better for them.”

The advent of cooking in the Paleolithic era was followed by many other types of processing in the late Mesolithic and early Neolithic eras—around the same time of the arrival of subsistence agriculture—including drying, milling, and fermenting. Pickling and curing would come later, near the Middle Ages, and finally all the technologies of the industrial revolution that included canning, plant breeding, pasteurization, blast freezing, aseptic packaging, and the list goes on.

Myth #2: GMOs are new and unnatural

One of the most recent food developments of the present day is the technology to genetically modify crops, which brings us to myth #2—that GMOs are something new and unnatural. “GMOs are as old as crop cultivation. The birds and the bees did it 10,000 years ago,” Ruff said.

Ruff explained further that we’ve been deliberately modifying crops ever since George Mendel taught how inheritance of traits and pea plants worked. In fact, the understanding of genetics is what led Norman Borlaug to father the Green Revolution with his high-yielding wheat, which saved millions of lives in India, Africa, and Mexico.

So when it comes to modifying plants genetically, “nothing is new,” Ruff said. We just have advanced technologies that help us to do it more easily.

Myth #3: Bias doesn’t exist in research

Another myth Ruff tackled is that bias doesn’t exist when research is not funded by the food industry. It certainly is, and he presented several examples —borrowing mainly from work by David Allison and others—where “white hat bias” had crept into scientific literature.

In some studies relating to sugar, for example, there were several instances of emotion-based language that drew conclusions from causation about food based on animal or cell studies. Worse still, some of the conclusions about causation were purely based on correlations found in epidemiological studies.

With this type of bias, it’s no surprise that we get the headlines that we do. And it explains why consumers become confused so easily.

Myth #4: Globalization isn’t a good thing

In a small world where communication happens in an instant thanks to information technology, consumers often might not appreciate how complex the supply chain of food might be.

For instance, Ruff says, a simple cheeseburger could have ingredients—the wheat bun, tomatoes, beef, and sauce—from several different countries including Australia, Canada, Uruguay, Belgium, the UK, Chile, Morocco, and Spain.

Information technology is also allowing us to make improvements to the food system by helping us to more quickly respond to consumer demands and food insecurity all over the world.

Myth #5: Processed food can’t be good for you

One other widely disseminated belief is that processed food can’t be good for you, but this is yet another mischaracterization. Even fast food can be healthy, Ruff says.

In fact, in 2012, a review paper published in The Journal of Nutrition determined that the processing level of foods was actually only a minor determinant of the individual food’s nutrient contribution to diet.

So, the authors argued, processed foods should not be overlooked and did have an important nutritional role for consumers. But that might not be enough of a convincing argument for consumers, who seem to love to hate food technology and science. Because of rising mistrust of food science and technology, Ruff says IFT is calling for its members to speak out about their industry.

“The future of our profession is at stake here,” Ruff said. “If we don’t get people to understand what food science has done in the past, what it’s doing today, and how critical it is to feed the world in the future; if we’re going to feed 9 billion people by 2050, we cannot afford to say, be a Luddite and throw away food technology and food science.”

– David Despain, MS, Cactus Section IFT Newsletter Committee Chair