What comes to your mind when you hear “Food Science”? Do you associate it with culinary arts? Biotechnology? Agriculture? While food science is partly related to them, it is actually also a discipline that stands remarkably on its own. For decades, it has helped business enterprises, scientific communities, and nations as a whole.
This field of study is constantly expanding, with many scientists contributing to this interesting area.
Today, we will be talking about some of the fundamental things you should know about food science, especially if you’re interested in pursuing your academics and career under the field.
We’ll be outlining our discussion with three basic questions about food science: (1) what is Food Science? (and what is NOT Food Science?);
(2) what are some Food Science Courses or subjects?; and
(3) why does Food Science matter?
Let’s first establish some definitions so we can set a primary standard on what is food science.The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) defines food science as “…the study of the physical, biological, and chemical makeup of food; the causes of food deterioration; and the concepts underlying food processing”. In simpler terms, it’s the scientific study of food, its aspects, and how its quality can be improved through science and technology.
This gives food scientists and food technologists the role of applying principles from vast scientific disciplines to the study of food. The general end goal of food science is to improve the safety, nutrition, and availability of food, as well as improving humankind’s overall health conditions.
Food science is also an interdisciplinary area of study in which other sciences or fields (such as biochemistry, nutrition, biology, biotechnology, mathematics, physics, toxicology, engineering, psychology, genetics, and even law) come together to give a wider perspective on food science.
As you will later notice, many of the above mentioned subjects will appear as courses under food science degrees. Depending on your chosen area, you can design and implement models on your food research studies and other projects.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, food science is often associated with other fields. While it uses an interdisciplinary approach in learning, you should also learn how to differentiate them. For example, food science is related to the culinary arts in a way that the latter uses principles from the former to improve the quality of their products. To illustrate, a lot of chefs use basic science knowledge on how particular food items or components are processed and how they can maximize the benefits they get from them. These are seen in a variety of food preparation or manufacturing techniques such as freeze-drying or decaffeination.
This area of study is also correlated with biotechnology, particularly on the processing of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Here, the foods’ genetic components are altered to improve their quality. Many times, these modifications are done for a more efficient food manufacturing process and provide humankind with better and more sustainable alternatives to certain food items.
Still, food science, biotechnology and other mentioned areas of science are all separate disciplines with their own principles and methods and should not be considered one and the same.
Now moving on to the next question, what are some of the subjects you will be learning under food science? Here are some of the most common subjects you should expect to study if you are to pursue a food science degree.
To understand the chemical components of food in an in-depth manner, food scientists study food chemistry. They use their expertise to grasp the overall nature of the food items they’re studying. With more information researched, they will be able to determine the best or most suited modifications in their food manufacturing process.
Other related subjects include food analysis and biochemistry.
Food engineering uses principles under the engineering field to study food. Expect that you will be using a lot of mathematical applications that can aid you in your research and experiments.
In these subjects, you will be learning how to check and guarantee the manufacturing process of food items to be safe and be of good, and of high quality upon completion. This also involves complying with certain standards imposed by government institutions and other business enterprises.
In product development electives, you will be creating your own food products by using the knowledge you’ve gained from your major courses. These lessons often feature a heavy concentration on hands-on training and experiences, as well as grounded projects.
A bit similar to food safety and quality assurance, you will learn about the different rules and regulations established by the Food and Drug Administration, and other legal concerns you need to know when working on food manufacturing.
Now onto our last question, why is food science important? Throughout the reading, we mention that food science’s end goal is to make humankind’s quality of life better through studying food. But what exactly has food science done for us (and will continue to do so)?
The IFT lists five (5) paradigms to highlight the importance of food science.
Food science plays a crucial role in a world where there is an increasing population and a scarcity of resources. Food science includes developing methods to contribute scientific viable solutions to a massive global struggle. This is done by carefully studying food and creating models on how to efficiently produce food.
As food scientists study food safety and quality assurance, they will also be finding ways on how to create safer food alternatives, especially in periods of scarcity where there are limited resources for food production.
It’s one thing to create food. It’s another to certain a source. Food sustainability has been a long-time project for food scientists all over the world. Afterall, humankind’s survival is of utmost importance.
Food science also aims to create more nutritional food alternatives to improve people’s health. The nutritional aspect of food is a significant focus in food science.
Special foods are made for people with a variety of health conditions and require specific nutritional needs such as food for newborns, children, seniors, and diabetics.