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Mexico and Phi Tau Sigma

(Contributed by Herbert Weinstein, Ph.D., Phi Tau Sigma Lifetime Member)

During the middle 1960s in Mexico City, a group of individuals associated with the food industry and all IFT members, because of their association with American corporations, began to meet with the intention of forming a group that could eventually associate in a certain way with the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Amongst that group and as a very enthusiastic participant was Ing.* Eduardo Mendez, who had a professional (business) relationship with Fries and Fries – a flavor supplier to the US food industry – and personal friendship with the owner Mr. Bob Fries. Eduardo, because of this relationship, participated actively in the IFT annual meetings and other activities, and made many contacts and friendships.

Others in that enthusiastic group in Mexico City included Mr. Charlie Duffy, a Mr. MacAllister (whom I cannot remember his first name – namely because we all called him Mac), Ing. Mike Fader, Ing. Emma Guillermina Balboa, and others. They met once a month in a restaurant and invited individuals in technical positions in the food and related industries in Mexico.

Towards the end of the 60s I returned to Mexico after graduating with an advanced degree and somehow – which I really do not remember – got connected with Eduardo. I was already a member of IFT (1965) and had been active in the regional section and was willing to continue my affiliation and help with whatever work of recruiting needed to be done in order to get something going in Mexico. As more individuals started to return “home” with degrees in food science, food technology, and related graduate programs, we were able to recruit more interested parties. We formed a larger core group that eventually made possible the creation of Asociación de Técnicos en Alimentos de México (ATAM) which, when we finally got to be recognized by IFT, became section 26 of the Institute. The important fact of this core group is that we all knew about IFT. We all were members and we had an opportunity to participate in the annual meetings. This participation was essential to form the bonds that would significantly enhance the reasons of joining ATAM by other people associated with the food industry in Mexico. Those working for US companies, suppliers to the food industry in Mexico, were the easiest to convince, and “their” clients came very soon thereafter. And so section 26 started to show their faces – as a group – at IFT annual meetings and began to be recognized! Just as an update, ATAM is now Asociación Nacional de Tecnológos en Alimentos de México.

Ing. Eduardo Mendez, Charlie Duffy and me, as well as two or three others were constant participants at annual meetings and became IFT committee members, which would bring us back to the US for meetings more often than once a year.

In one of those committee group meetings, I met with Guy Livingston, whom Eduardo had met before and who, as we all know was an active and enthusiastic member of Phi Tau Sigma. He introduced us to the organization and asked us to think about Phi Tau Sigma in Mexico City. This informal get together got us thinking of the organization, and Eduardo and I applied and became members. Now, it would make more sense to talk to other “friends” and colleagues about the group and invite them to join.

It is important at this time to remind the reader that in Mexico there was no culture of “Greek Societies” and most of us who had foreign schooling were graduate students, not really exposed to fraternities and sororities. Also, specific curricula in Food Science and Technology did not exist at a bachelor’s level, and only a very young Master’s degree program had been established at Universidad Americana – by those of us in the core group of ATAM, in the early 1970s. Today that all has changed radically!

Now a labor of love began, we tried to sell the idea/concept of belonging to Phi Tau Sigma. We would say “join, it is a great organization, it is an Honor Society and the fees are US$10.00 a year.” I am sure you have guessed what happened next – more or less - the main response to our invitation was: “and what do I gain by joining?” We really had very little to offer except for the fact Phi Tau Sigma being an Honor Society and that if you were accepted, meant you had been recognized as a member of the Food Science and Technology profession. Even under that reality or hardship we did convince a few of our closer colleagues and friends to apply and dish out the US$10.00. Some of them did join and were members for some time; many did it for one year.

Expanding the concept of the Honor Society to student affiliation was almost an impossible task. Not only did our universities and colleges have no direct associated degrees with Food Science and Technology at a bachelor’s level, but to them the invitation had no offering of any valuable asset visible to them. Also, many could most probably not afford the fees.

In any case, at least Eduardo and I, participated at the Phi Tau Sigma’s breakfasts at IFT annual meetings, and were recognized by the Chair and had a wonderful time partaking with students and colleagues.

Unfortunately, the idea and concept of forming a core group and then an affiliate organization in Mexico never advanced very much and the idea was lost some years later. I left Mexico in 1974 and even though I returned in the late 1980s, the efforts that the older members were doing were directed towards the survival of ATAM. We could really not distract any resources or efforts towards Phi Tau Sigma. As I understand today, the ATAM is dormant and there are efforts by the IFT leadership to reenergize the Mexican group.

In conclusion, I can say that even though Mexico did not have an affiliate, the many friendships and the great network that Phi Tau Sigma started and that still exists, have stayed with me and some of my friends, with great memories and important friendships.

* Ing. stands for Ingeniero which is a degree obtained, at that time, after a 5 year college program which requires a thesis, in some instances and depending on the courses taken it would be acceptable equivalency of an MSc. The requirements may have changed in the intervening years.

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