"Europeans want food that is cheap, convenient, high quality, safe and more and more produced in a eco-friendly way," says Professor Brian McKenna, at University College Dublin in Ireland. He continues, "Food is important to peoples health as it is increasingly being linked to diseases such as obesity, coronary heart disease and diabetes."
Part of the solution, say food scientists at the recent European Science Foundation (ESF) and European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST) conference, can be found in new preservation techniques, such as irradiating mushrooms to kill pests and increase shelf-life, or packaging vegetables in oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide that extend their life on the shelf for two or three fold.
Every culture on earth has innovated around preservation technology; dried, pickled, salted, frozen, dehydrated, and so on. Yet, Europeans tend to be skeptical of new food preservation technology, especially from food scientists. Perhaps it is because their cousins across the pond, who eat mechanically separated chicken parts, high fructose corn syrup and modified corn starch on a regular basis, are the ones most struggling with the issues of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.McKenna is well aware of this skepticism, and hopes that by encouraging food scientists to understand the socioeconomic, political, and cultural influences on what Europeans eat, food scientists can provide better advice to policy makers on how food is processed and packaged, as well as sold and eaten.
Delivering actual whole foods (not processed), that are fresh and healthy usually requires it to be local- and not constructed from components or packaged at all. This also means that whole local food tends to be seasonal. Something you can almost ignore today if you don't grow it yourself. When are strawberry's in season? How about mango's? Is any of it local?
Preservation techniques can extend, and enhance a wide variety of food, (cheese, Scotch, and pickles come to mind). Preservation can also allow rare and valuable foodstuffs to be transported, but it should be kept in perspective in relation to the local production of the food itself.