Whole Grains Summit shows need for collaboration

by Eric Schroeder
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MINNEAPOLIS — Scientists, business leaders, media and health professionals from around the world gathered May 19-22 in Minneapolis to voice opinions and share research as its relates to whole grains as part of the 2012 Whole Grains Summit hosted by the Grains For Health Foundation.

Kicking off the event, Len Marquart, associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota and president of the Grains for Health Foundation, asked participants to consider if industry is “moving in the right direction” when it comes to whole grain.

“If we do the right thing for the whole grains community, we will do the right thing for society,” he said.
What followed Mr. Marquart’s comments were three days of debate and discussion about whole grains. With a Summit theme of “Whole grains and health: From theory to practice,” the event sparked interesting dialogue under three major umbrellas each of the three days: creating a vision of the whole; collaborative solutions for whole grains and health; and call to action: moving beyond the Summit.

On May 20, participants discussed the current state of whole grains in relation to the supply chain and various sectors, disciplines and cultural influences. Roger Clemens, president of the Institute of Food Technologists, engaged attendees on how industry may be able to bridge the whole grains crevasse through food science, while Robert Post, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, filled the group in on how whole grains are measuring up in terms of reaching dietary guidance.

In a keynote prior to the start of events on May 21, Bill Stoufer, president of Omaha-based ConAgra Mills, said whole grains are meeting the demands that consumers are asking for, but more work needs to be done going forward. He also reminded those in attendance that although traditional flour “has taken a bloody nose,” it will remain an important ingredient going forward.

Following Mr. Stoufer’s remarks, Summit participants broke out into four different “tracks.” Track 1 focused on alignment of whole grain definitions of foods; Track 2 looked to define a strategic research plan from seed to consumer; Track 3 examined business, economic and consumer opportunities in delivery of more whole grain foods to consumers; and Track 4 took on a global feel, with participants highlighting opportunities to promote whole grain consumption for health.

The Summit wrapped up on May 22 with a summary of findings from the four tracks as well as further discussion on potential next steps in the development and implementation of a strategic work plan for whole grains.

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