Expanding worldwide availability of whole grain foods sets a big target for the Whole Grains Summit 2012 when it convenes at Minneapolis, MN, May 20-22. The international gathering of scientists, business and health professionals will probe research, business, marketing and regulatory perspectives that allow healthier grain-based foods to flow more readily to consumers.

“The main idea is figuring out how we can work together to increase whole grain consumption around the world,” said Len Marquardt, PhD, RD, associate professor, department of food science and nutrition, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, and one of the summit planners. Dr. Marquardt advises the Grains for Health Foundation, the 2012 summit’s host.

Only if the entire grains community — breeders, millers, food manufacturers and marketers, academia, government, trade associations — works together can actionable policy be set and implemented, according to Dr. Marquardt. He described attendance and involvement by food industry managers in the summit as essential, observing, “The food industry is where the rubber hits the road.”

The program brings together the world’s leading whole grains researchers and executives, representing agriculture, academia, millers, manufacturers, retailers and food service operators. Program planners outlined four goals for the 2½-day summit: 1) to identify research gaps to get whole grains to consumers worldwide; 2) to understand approaches to link whole grain research to communication and action, including behavioral change; 3) to build professional connections across disciplines and continents through engaging dialogue; and 4) to assist in setting goals for global dietary guidance, identify the knowledge gaps where the research is not conclusive on whole grains and health.

Summit organizers expect about 500 attendees. “Given the momentum of whole grains in the market, we expect good attendance,” Dr. Marquardt said. Some 400 participants came to the previous summit, held in May 2005 at Minneapolis.

The keynote session on Sunday, May 20 — “Farm to fork: our role in influencing public health” — will be addressed by Roger Clemens, IFT president and a member of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans technical committee, and Sylvia Escott-Stump, president of the American Dietetics Association. Dr. Clemens is chief science office for E.T. Horn Co., La Mirada, CA. Ms. Escott-Stump is director of dietetic programs at East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, and an author of several books about food and nutrition therapy.

The rest of the day will examine whole grain definitions and guidelines, global whole grain intake, dietary guidance, consumer insights and behaviors, supply chain issues, health aspects, research and epidemiology. The day ends with a summary session relating whole grains to public health issues and solutions.

The Monday session offers a plenary session about increasing the role of whole grains in building a healthier plate and then breaks up into four simultaneous tracks examining the definition of whole grains, strategic research plans, business and economic opportunities, and worldwide promotion activities. The outcomes of discussions in these tracks will be covered. Tuesday sessions will summarize outcomes from the four tracks to provide a call to action for participants to move beyond the summit.

The 2012 summit has expanded the reach of its program to include other plant-based foods — fruits, vegetables, legumes, other seeds and spices. “The point is not to isolate whole grains,” Dr. Marquardt explained. “Whole grains provide the foundation for many foods — sandwiches, entrees, pizza, even desserts. It’s important that producers think about what they add to their whole grain products, to consider the other foods involved. With whole grain applications such as pizza, for example, you can get more vegetable servings into finished products and people’s diets.”

Three all-day pre-meeting symposia, to be held May 19, provide opportunities to go into depth on the specific topics of whole grains research involving health, of expanding the whole grains market and of common ground between public health and industry.

The event is being organized by Dr. Marquardt and Denise Hauge, director of the Grains for Health Foundation. Summit sponsors include General Mill’s Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, Malt-O-Meal, Manitoba Agri-Research Health Network, Nestle and PepsiCo. Partnering in the event are AACC International, American Society for Nutrition, International Food Information Council Foundation, Newcastle University, USDA Agricultural Research Service, University of Manitoba, University of Washington Center for Obesity Research and Wheat Foods Council.

For full program, registration and housing information, visitwww.cce.umn.edu/whole-grains-summit-2012. Early bird registration ends April 13.