The average supermarket carries more than 20,000 items, most of which were developed into safe, affordable, and tasty products by food scientists and technologists. Food Science and Technology is the discipline in which biology, engineering, and physical sciences are used to study the nature of foods, the causes of their deterioration, and the principles underlying food processing, such as the selection, preservation, packaging, distribution, and use of safe and nutritious food. This field is distinct from that of nutrition or dietetics and is considered one of the agricultural sciences. A background in food science prepares students for a wide range of careers, which may include conducting research on food additives, implementing better methods to process and package food products, or developing new foods or new markets.. Professionals in this field are concerned primarily with the science required to understand and improve the world’s food supply. Food scientists and technologists work in a variety of environments, such as multi-national corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
Food engineering is the application of engineering principles to the storage, processing and distribution of food materials and their bio-products. This concentration of food science requires a background in engineering education as well as significant training in and understanding of in chemistry. Food engineers make valuable contributions in various capacities of food chain, such as design of processing, handling, packaging and storage equipment and systems, scale-up of prototype food processes, machinery, and equipment; product research and development, and regulation and protection of the public health.
There are over 13,500 registered food companies in the United States today. Companies such as Gerber, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Ben and Jerry’s and Campbell Soup, among others, typically hire Food Engineers.
Food chemistry is a combined field of food science and the principles of chemistry. The study of food chemistry aims to apply and to increase the knowledge of the chemical and technological behavior and the toxicological and physical properties of food constituents.
Food chemists explore the chemical, microbiological, physical and sensory nature of food, and apply their knowledge in the development, processing, preserving, packaging, distributing and storing of foodstuffs. They analyze the properties of proteins, starches, fat and carbohydrates to determine how each works in a food system. Food chemists specialize in production, quality control, marketing, or research and development. Some may design and analyze methods of cooking, canning, and freezing while investigating the effect of processing on appearance, taste, aroma, freshness, and vitamin content of the food.
Food technology, often used interchangeably with food science, incorporates a broad field of study which focuses on the process of changing raw materials into food products. Raw materials include items such as bananas, fish, grains of wheat and potatoes. Some of these raw materials can be eaten as they are, while other raw materials need to be processed before they can be presented to the public as edible and tasty.
Food Safety is a scientific discipline which focuses on the handling, processing, preparation, and storing of food in order to prevent food borne illnesses. Food safety professionals are trained to enforce the standards set by national agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as state and local governments. Organizations such as the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals (NRFSP) seek to uphold regulations by maintaining certification programs for food safety professionals, ensuring they have the knowledge to assess whether ingredients, processes, and facilities are safe.
According to a recent United Nations report, total food production in the United States went from 287 million metric tons in 1965 to more than 674 million metric tons in 2010. Typically, more food means more risk of food-borne illnesses, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people in America became sick in 2011 from food-borne illnesses, a significant decrease from the total of 78 million cases in 1999. Food Safety professionals play a vital role in contributing to the health of not only local communities but nations as well.
Food microbiology is the study of identifying food microorganisms, tiny, single-cell organisms that inhabit, create, or contaminate food. This area concentrates largely upon bacteria which cause food spoilage. However, bacteria such as probiotics (live microorganisms which are beneficial to the host organism) are becoming a significant part of the study of food microbiology. Probiotics may be found in products such as yogurt and dietary supplements. This subset of Food Science is of particular importance for the production of fermented foods, including yogurt, cheese, bread, wine and beer.
This subset of food science refers to the scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking. Molecular gastronomy, coined in1988 by Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti, seeks to investigate and explain the chemical reasons behind the transformation of ingredients, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena in general. Topics such as the ways in which cooking methods affect the flavor and texture of food ingredients as well as the roles the senses play in one’s appreciation of food and cuisine may be covered. This modern style of cooking is practiced by both scientists and food professionals in professional kitchens and laboratories.
Sensory analysis (or sensory evaluation) is the subset of food science that applies the principles of experimental design and statistical analysis to the use of human senses in order to evaluate consumer products. Most large consumer goods companies have departments dedicated to sensory analysis.