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Consumer Education Starts with Students

Richard Pisano, Jr. President, Citrus & Allied Essences, Ltd.

At the NAFFS Convention in October 2017, I, along with a number of fellow NAFFS members, expressed concern that the public in general seems unaware that flavors, formulated with approved ingredients, under conditions of intended use, are safe.

As NAFFS members, we all know that the flavor industry has been mostly invisible and has never engaged in an active big-budget campaign to promote public awareness about flavors. The food supply in the United States is generally (and correctly) assumed to be safe. As such, there has never been a reason for the majority of Americans to reach contrary conclusions about the safety of the ingredients that are found in processed foods. And while it is probably true that most people take for granted that foods are safe, perhaps those that believe this are best thought of as a “silent majority”.

On the other hand, individuals with contrary views could be thought of as the “outspoken minority”. Initially it was the outspoken minority over whom we lamented. However, as our conversation progressed, our thoughts changed. We realized there was little we could do to change their strong opinions but, perhaps we could provide accurate information to students studying food science, chemistry, biology and various fields of engineering who could then be relied upon to be messengers to their peers. Thus was born a desire to create a presentation designed for food science majors on the history of flavor safety evaluation.

Over a period of six months, I read, wrote, edited and sought out the expertise of NAFFS colleagues who generously took the time to review my steady stream of drafts. Version 1 ended up as a 90-minute workshop. This proved too long because our contacts at food science departments indicated that it needed to fit into a 50-minute class period including time for questions. Version 2 does just that. It is interactive and includes a glossary of terms relating to flavors, power point slides, GC curves of essential oils and an odor evaluation of a few essential oils and aroma chemicals.

Initial presentations were made at a Society of Flavor Chemists meeting in April 2018 and at the IFEAT meeting in Cartagena in September. And most important, the completed short Version 2 has been presented in food science classes at the University of Illinois and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, as well as at a very well attended evening meeting of the Food Science Club at Rutgers University. As you might expect, student feedback has proved invaluable.

An overview of the finished presentation was made at the 2018 NAFFS Convention. NAFFS has graciously made both the text and the power point slide deck available on its web site. It can be viewed at

If you would like to present this interactive talk at your alma mater or at a local university, a sample set is available from Citrus and Allied Essences. For further information, please contact me by email at

In closing, this project has been a labor of love and I hope it helps university-age students to better understand the history of flavor safety evaluation and makes it possible for informed students to reach their own conclusions about the safety of both natural and artificial flavors, formulated with approved ingredients, under conditions of intended use

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