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Food Science

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[Sea Food - NOAA/Shutterstock]


- Overview

Food science is the basic and applied science of food; its scope begins with an overlap with agricultural science and nutritional science and leads through the scientific aspects of food safety and food processing to inform the development of food technology.

The (US) Institute of Food Technologists defines food science as "the discipline in which the engineering, biological, and physical sciences are used to study the nature of foods, the causes of deterioration, the principles underlying food processing, and the improvement of foods for the consuming public".

Food science is still a relatively new and evolving discipline, primarily in response to social changes taking place in North America and other developed countries. Originally offering only raw products for final home preparation, the food industry now finds itself responding to market demands for more refined, complex and convenient products. 

To ensure high-quality and competitive products, scientific principles and new technologies are being applied to food manufacturing, and the body of knowledge required has become a discipline known as food science. 


- Research Topics of Food Science

Food science focuses on the transformation of crops and livestock into satisfying plates of food. It encompasses numerous technologies that prolong the shelf life of grocery items, such as canning and pasteurization, and includes safety mechanisms that prevent food contamination. 

Food science is a multidisciplinary field involving chemistry, biochemistry, nutrition, microbiology and engineering to provide scientific knowledge that addresses practical problems related to many aspects of the food system. The discipline is based on understanding the chemistry of food components, such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats and water, and how they react during processing and storage. 

A complete understanding of processing and preservation methods is required, including drying, freezing, pasteurization, canning, irradiation, extrusion, and more. The ability to perform food compositional analysis is developed along with statistical quality control methods. It is also imperative to understand the microbiological and safety aspects of food. Other topics covered include food additives, physicochemical properties of foods, flavor chemistry, product development, food engineering and packaging. Food science integrates this broad-based knowledge and focuses it on food. 


- The Activities of A Food Scientist

The need for easy-to-prepare, convenience foods presents significant scientific and technical challenges that cannot be met without trained scientists who understand the complex chemistry/biochemistry of food systems and knowledge of methods to preserve them. Society's increasing reliance on ready-to-eat foods has led to greater responsibility for quality, safety and nutrition on processors. 

The activities of a food scientist include developing new foods, designing processes for producing those foods, selecting packaging materials, shelf-life studies, sensory evaluation of products using survey panels or potential consumers, and microbiological and chemical testing. Food scientists can study more fundamental phenomena directly related to food production and its properties.

The goal of food scientists is to create foods that fit into the lifestyles of all people in society. It's a discipline that occupies itself with ensuring a sufficient, economic, safe, healthy food supply. 



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